HC Deb 22 February 1832 vol 10 cc637-63

Mr. Knight moved the Order of the Day for the House to resolve itself into Committee on the Master of the Rolls (Ireland) Bill.

On the question, that the Speaker leave the Chair—

Mr. Stanley

apologized to the House for offering himself to its attention, on a question which involved points of law, upon which he was not competent to speak. He should not have addressed the (louse had not his hon. and learned friend (Mr. Crampton) been debarred from taking any part in this debate. He had therefore been requested by his noble friend, the Chancellor for Ireland, to state the case in his behalf, inasmuch as the Bill now before the House interfered, in a very unjust and unprecedented manner, with rights he was undoubtedly entitled to exercise. He begged leave, however, to say, that if he had not been convinced, that right and justice were on the side of his noble friend no consideration of personal regard would have induced him to take any part in the discussion of a question, on the merits of which he must, at best, be but ill-informed. He would call the attention of the House to the manner in which this Bill had been brought forward, and to the Representations contained in its preamble, and he hoped that he should be able to induce hon. Members to come to the opinion that this Bill ought not to proceed any further. The first statement made in it was, that there was a conflicting claim of right between the Lord Chancellor and the Master of the Rolls, in Ireland, with regard to the nomination of a certain officer. This mode of staling the question placed these two parties on grounds of perfect equality, as if there were no difference in their positions, as if the matter were altogether doubtful and unsettled, and that, therefore, the interference of Parliament had become necessary. This was so far from being the case, that there had been solemn legal decisions upon it; and, according to the analogy of the practice in other cases, the right undoubtedly rested with the Lord Chancellor. In no single instance, as the Master of the Roll's Court was formed at present had he ever exercised that patronage which he now claimed. Neither had the Lord Chancellor ever ceased to exercise that patronage. In the year 1800, upon the occasion of the Union between England and Ireland, a Bill was introduced to give to the Court of the Master of the Rolls a judicial character, which it had not previously possessed in Ireland, placing it on a similar footing with the Court, of the Master of the Rolls in England—so as to constitute that officer, in the words of the Act, "an assistant, of the Lord Chancellor." The only circumstance on which the claim now asserted, on behalf of the Master of the Rolls, could be founded was, that in the year 1800, a compensation was granted to the Chancellor's then Secretary, in consideration of the appointment of the new Court, which would materially diminish the receipts of his office. Mr. Dwyer, at that time held the office of the Lord Chancellor's Secretary; and his support of the Union was considered essential. His was an office of considerable influence, and it was an object to turn that influence into the same channel with other influence. That Gentleman then received compensation for the appointment of a Secretary to the Master of the Rolls. Notwithstanding this, however, no Gentleman was appointed to the office. Mr. Dwyer continuing to perform its duties, and receiving the compensation for having lost it at the same time. In 1806, Mr. Curran succeeding to be Master of the Rolls he appointed another Gentleman, but, by an order made by the then Lord Chancellor, the appointment was, in fact and practice, reserved to the Lord Chancellor. The order then made precluded the Secretary of the Master of the Rolls, from having any duties to perform. The Lord Chancellor's power of nomination continued undisputed up to 1827. The present Master of the Rolls, who now claimed this appointment as a matter of right and proposed to establish it by reversing the decisions of two successive Lord Chancellors, —and the enactments of a statute passed in 1822—set up no claim till 1826. He was aware that the Master of the Rolls had a feeling of delicacy with respect to Lord Manners, the then Lord Chancellor, and was unwilling to interfere with what that officer considered to be part of his vested rights. He did not dispute or impugn the existence of this feeling of delicacy, but a person in an official situation, thinking himself entitled to patronage exercised by another, could have taken no course so delicate and proper as that of calling the attention of Government and of Parliament to the subject—with a view to have the general question settled for the future; more particularly as the order under which Lord Manners exercised that patronage was not an order of his own, but of the Chancellor who preceded him; so that he had no personal feeling in the question. But the Master of the Rolls, who entered office in 1814, had many opportunities of agitating this question before 1827? In 1815, for example, a bill was introduced to regulate the office of Master of the Rolls in Ireland. By that the appointment of the Six Clerks was vested in the Master of the Rolls; and other regulations were made, with respect to his patronage, which gave him an excellent opportunity of raising this question. In 1816, a Commission was appointed to examine into the offices of the Court of Chancery in Ireland; and on the 16th of December 1816, the Commissioners made a Report. They examined, first, into the Master of the Rolls' Court, and stated the salary provided for that officer; and that there was no other emolument, but the salary, from that situation. In order that no mistake might arise as to the meaning of the word "emolument," they went into his patronage, specifying every part of it distinctly; but they did not mention the appointment of a Secretary. The Report, in speaking of the Lord Chancellor's office, gave an account also of his Lordship's patronage. In that account it distinctly appeared that the Chancellor's Secretary was the person, whose privilege and emolument it was, to perform all those duties which the Master of the Rolls said that a Secretary to be appointed by him— but who never had been appointed by him —ought to perform. Did this Report take the Master of the Rolls by surprise? Certainly not; for in his letter to the right hon. Baronet opposite (Sir Robert Peel), he said, with reference to the draft of a letter he had to prepare, containing the suggestions of the Lord Chancellor and himself, on the salaries and fees attached to the different offices in the Court of Chancery, that he had devoted the long vacation of 1817 to an investigation of those salaries and fees. He then stated what were the fees and salaries of the offices, the appointment of which he claimed to be vested in himself as of right, and he made no mention of his Secretary. In consequence of the suggestions made by the Master of the Rolls and the Lord Chancellor, for the regulation of all the offices in their respective Courts, the Act of 4 George 4th was passed. That Act fixed the salary of the Lord Chancellor's Secretary, and it was fixed partly with reference to the duties the Master of the Rolls now wished to take from him. He was bound to suppose, then, that this subject did not escape the attention of the Master of the Rolls, and if it did not, there was no consideration of delicacy to prevent his stating his claim to the Commissioners of Judicial Inquiry. He had the highest respect for the present Master of the Rolls, and meant not to blame him; but he must state to the House one fact with regard to the Deputy Keeper of the Rolls. When the Master of the Rolls came into office, he appointed a gentleman to act as Deputy Keeper of the Rolls. There was, however, a gentleman before in possession of this post, who argued that it was a permanent office, and that the person who held it was not removable at the pleasure of every Master of the Rolls. But the Master of the Rolls contested that point, on the ground that as it was the only office to which he was entitled to nominate, it was essential that his patronage in respect of it should be undisputed. Having thus succeeded in ousting the former holder of the office, the Master of the Rolls, in the regulations of the Act of 1823, had it provided, that the gentleman who thus displaced his predecessor, should not himself be liable to removal. Without blaming the Master of the Rolls, it was clear this was not the act of a man who was paying no attention to what he conceived to be his rights as to privileges and patronage attached to his office. In a part of the bill, it was stated, that doubts had arisen whether an Act passed in the 4 George 4th might not be so construed as to prejudice or affect the right claimed by the Master of the Rolls. The Master of the Rolls came into office in 1814; opportunities arose for his claiming the right in 1815, in 1816, and subsequently; and yet now an Act was to be passed, to remove doubts as to the construction of an Act of 1823, affecting a claim not made till 1827? Before the House sanctioned such a bill, introduced in so extraordinary a manner, it should be satisfied that a primâ facie case of right had been made out, for they would have to pass it in the face of two solemn decisions of different Lord Chancellors, and in the face of an Act of Parliament, subsequently amended by another Act, and in both of which the Master of the Rolls was concerned. He maintained that it would be unjust to the gentleman who filled the office of Secretary to the Lord Chancellor, whose salary was fixed on the supposition that he held a certain office, if the Master of the Rolls were to appoint another person to perform a portion of the duties of his office, and receive the fees. It was contended that, according to the analogy of the practice in England, the Master of the Rolls in Ireland ought to appoint his own Secretary; but he entreated hon. Members not to be misled by the analogy of names, for there was no other analogy between the Courts in England and in Ireland. According to the practice of the Court of Chancery in England, petitions, in the first instance, went to the Secretaries of the Lord Chancellor and the Master of the Rolls respectively; but, in Ireland, the practice of the Court was different. In Ireland, there was no such previous petition as existed in England, and the duty performed by the Secretary of the Master of the Rolls in Ireland was nothing more than that which was performed by the Deputy Registrar in the Court of Chancery in England; and he was an officer, not appointed by the Master of the Rolls, but by the Crown. So far as the case rested upon analogy, therefore, it fell to the ground, and the claim was no more warranted by presumed similarity than it was by law and practice. He did not say, that the practice should not be altered, if it were an improper one; but no arguments could be adduced either of a prescriptive right or a right founded on the analogy of the practice in England, in favour of the Master of the Rolls, which ought to induce the House to reverse two solemn adjudications of the Court of Chancery, and the provisions of two Acts of Parliament. [Mr. O'Connell: Two orders of Court were made]. An order of Court was made by Mr. Ponsonby in 1806, which was confirmed by Sir Anthony Hart, after a lengthened argument and laborious consideration in 1827; and Acts were passed, in the interval, confirming the rights of the present Lord Chancellor's Secretary. These were solemn decisions of the Court. Whatever ground, then, there might be for regulating the office in future, there were none to warrant so extraordinary an ex post facto proceeding as that of depriving a man, by a legislative enactment, of a long enjoyed right for the purpose of transferring it to another. He moved, that the Bill be committed that day six months.

Mr. James L. Knight

thought, that if it was the intention of the right hon. Gentleman to do that which was right and just, he would not have opposed a Bill, the only purpose of which was to enable the Master of the Rolls to try the question in dispute between him and the Lord Chancellor of Ireland, in a Court of Law —a course which he was at present precluded from adopting in consequence of the Lord Chancellor having exercised that power which was vested in him, and excluded his adversary from availing himself of that mode of settling the dispute. In his opinion, there were sufficient grounds to justify the House in passing the present Bill. The Master of the Rolls claimed the right of appointing his own Secretary; but the Chancellor, at present exercised the power of the appointment, and the Master of the Rolls had no remedy. The right of the Chancellor to appoint the Secretary was not such an old right as the right hon. Gentleman seemed to imagine. The office itself had not existed a century. The fact was, that, up to the year 1733, there did not appear in the business of the Court a reason for the appointment of such an officer; but at that time his office was found to be necessary, and he was then, for the first time, appointed. At the time of the Union with Ireland, an Act of Parliament was passed reviving the judicial functions of the Master of the Rolls in Ireland, which had for some time previous been in abeyance. In June, 1801, after the passing of that Act, the then Master of the Rolls exercised the right of appointing his Secretary; and though the Secretary to the Chancellor claimed and received compensation on the ground that that appointment interfered with his emoluments, yet a distinct recognition was made by Parliament by the very allowance of that compensation, of the Master of the Rolls's right to appoint his Secretary. In 1806, Mr. Curran was appointed Master of the Rolls, but the Lord Chancellor (Lord Ponsonby) prevented him from appointing a Secretary, by making an order that no petition should be received in his Court unless signed by his (the Lord Chancellor's) Secretary. Mr. Curran gave way, and chose rather to forego his right than enter into litigation with the Lord Chancellor, who was his personal and political friend. In 1814, the present Master of the Rolls received his appointment; and though he did not claim his right while the then Lord Chancellor remained in office, from the same motives of friendship which had induced Mr. Curran to forego his rights; yet, in 1826, when Lord Manners retired, the Master of the Rolls immediately claimed the right to appoint his Secretary; and the question was decided by Sir Anthony Hart, in the same manner as it had previously been decided by the Lord Chancellor in 1806. The right hon. Gentleman opposite said, that this question had been twice solemnly adjudicated upon; but he begged to inform the right hon. Gentleman, that so far from the matter having undergone any solemn investigation, the two orders in Chancery to which he had alluded were issued without a hearing of the case having previously taken place. The dispute still existed, and he saw no means of settling it in any ordinary manner. The Lord Chancellor refused to submit to any other decision than his own order, which did not seem to be an impartial method of settling the business. The present Bill, therefore, was brought in to enable the Master of the Rolls to try the question before some other Judge than his own adversary; and he thought that the House could not, without forfeiting all character for common justice, refuse to entertain it.

Mr. Crampton

contended, that no case had been made out to justify the House in agreeing to the Bill now under discussion. By the 41st George 3rd, which was passed on occasion of the Union of Ireland, the whole foundation on which the Rolls Court in Ireland was to rest was regulated; and by no part of that Statute was any authority given to the Master of the Rolls to appoint an official Secretary. Nor did it appear, that Parliament had, by an oversight, omitted to take into consideration what assistance the Master of the Rolls might want; because by that very Act, which he had just mentioned, the appointment of the Deputy Keeper of the Rolls was expressly given to that Judge. A most extraordinary reason had been given, by the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite, why the Master of the Rolls had allowed his claim to lie dormant until the retirement of Lord Manners—viz. the close political and private intimacy which had subsisted between that learned Judge and the noble Lord. Now, in his opinion, this explanation did not at all improve the case of the Master of the Rolls; for in such matters, which concerned the public, individuals ought not to allow their own private feelings to interfere with the discharge of their duty. If the Master of the Rolls considered he had a right to the appointment of a Secretary, he ought, out of regard to the office, to have taken measures, without delay, to establish it; but he not only took no steps himself to assert his right, but even when called upon by the Commissioners of Inquiry in 1816, he made a Report, in which he stated that there was but one Secretary to the Court of Chancery, and that it was the duty of that Secretary to attend the Lord Chancellor at all times, and the Master of the Rolls when he sat upon petitions, and to endorse his fiat on those petitions; yet, notwithstanding this admission of the Master of the Rolls, a Bill was now brought in to enable him to appoint a Secretary to perform that duty which he acknowledged belonged to the Secretary of the Lord Chancellor. On these grounds he would contend, that there was no valid foundation for legislative interference in support of the claim of the Master of the Rolls—a claim put forward upon the strength of mere assertion, and which should least of all be conceded to the Master of the Rolls, as it had been advanced, in contradiction to the history given by himself, in 1816, of the constitution of his Court. There was also another point which demanded the consideration of the House, namely, the Secretary's salary. There were only two modes of paying a new salary to such an officer— one was to grant him new fees, and thus increase the expenses of litigation to all his Majesty's subjects; the other was to pay him out of the fees at present enjoyed by the Lord Chancellor's Secretary. To the former of those modes of payment it did not appear to him that any party in that House was favourable; and to the latter he was sure, that a majority of the House could never be brought to consent, for it was impossible to conceive any proposition more unjust upon the face of it than one which would go to deprive that officer of the fees which he should receive uponfiats granted upon petitions.

Mr. O'Connell

said, that the Government i of Ireland sought to place the Irish Lord Chancellor in a very unenviable position. He was placed in the situation of a man who, having the power to arrest the course of justice, used that power, and did arrest the course of justice in his own case. They took care not to allow the right to be tried, and made him decide a case in which he was himself a party. The plain state of the case was this: when a man was heard upon a motion in the Irish Court of Chancery, the fee was 8s.; when upon petition, 2l. 10s.; there would be then a clear saving of 2l. 2s. to every suitor in the one mode of proceeding as compared with the other; but what did the Lord Chancellor do by his order? He gave an undue preference to the one mode over the other, and when the 2l. 10s. was to be paid, he decided that it should drop into the purse of his own appointee. They might talk of Reform after that; but the people of Great Britain would judge for themselves. He did not despair, however, that justice would be eventually done in that case, for the force of opinion respecting judicial conduct, could not be resisted. He would present the question to the Government in this form: Did they think it decent or becoming to assist the Lord Chancellor in preventing the trial of a question of right, in which he was himself concerned, and had a direct interest? What would be thought of such a proceeding in Ireland? What would be the opinion of the Irish public, if they conceived that any Judge, much less that Judge who was styled the Keeper of the Royal conscience, interposed a bar between the trial of a question, for the purpose of putting money in the pocket of a Secretary, a brother-in-law, or any one else? What would they think, if the Chancellor were pronounced capable of countenancing such a line of conduct? But he (Mr. O'Connell) was convinced that it would be the grossest calumny against Lord Plunkett to assert, that he was at the bottom of this business. It was altogether a monstrous proceeding, and whatever might be the influence on one side of the House, it was quite impossible that it should rest as it then stood. The House of Commons, he admitted, was an improper tribunal for the decision of the claim, nor did the Master of the Rolls wish it decided there; but he did desire that his adversary should not, through its instrumentality, render it impossible for him to obtain a decision. Would that House stop the course of justice, and arrest the progress to a decision? This was no party question. The Master of the Rolls was no party man, but an indefatigable, pains-taking Judge, and he (Mr. O'Connell), in expressing his sentiments, dis- claimed all political feelings. The order was originally made by Lord Chancellor Ponsonby, who, though a very able man, was not much of a lawyer. In proof of the impartiality with which he mentioned his Lordship, he would state a fact creditable to his liberality—that when he, on coming to office, dismissed the Secretary of the Master of the Rolls, and claimed the right, of appointing his own, he allowed the dismissed Secretary 500l. a-year out of his own pocket. Without wishing to attach any undue importance to his own judgment, he (Mr. O'Connell) would, as a Member of Parliament, and a lawyer, declare his conscientious and deliberate opinion that with the Master of the Rolls lay the right of appointing his Secretary. A majority of that House might sanction a different conclusion; but a majority of the British nation would not be found to follow in a path so unworthy of the English character. He must say, that it was doing great discredit to the Lord Chancellor of Ireland to mix his name up with a matter of this kind. It had been alleged by the opponents of the Bill, that it would go to alter existing Acts of Parliament; but if they would give them an opportunity of going into Committee on that Bill, he should soon show them that it affected no existing Acts of Parliament. He would beg to present the question to them in another point of view. Suppose a bill were filed in Chancery for the purpose of recovering possession of an acre of land— suppose the man in possession raised a temporary bar of a legal, a strictly legal kind, for the purpose of defeating the equitable claim of the plaintiff—what would the Lord Chancellor of Ireland in such a case say? Would he not at once declare, that the first and chief duty of his office was to remove all temporary bars that were raised in the way of immediate and substantial justice? He would appeal, then, from the Secretary for Ireland to the Lord Chancellor for Ireland—from the Advocate in that House to the Judge on the Bench—the latter of which personages, as especially became him in the exercise of his high functions, would, he was sure, indignantly sweep away all the impediments that might interfere with the clear and straight-forward course of justice. He must remind the House of the doctrine of that old constitutional lawyer, Lord Coke, that for a man to be in any shape or degree as Judge in any cause in which he had an interest, was the most mischievous and dangerous that could be imagined, and that even if an Act of Parliament gave him such a privilege, it was void from its very absurdity.

The Attorney General

took a very different view of this case from the hon. and learned Gentleman who had preceded him. The object of the present Lord Chancellor of Ireland was, to prevent the legal rights of his office from being infringed upon. That he had no private pecuniary interests to promote, was evident from the fact that this order had not been issued by Lord Chancellor Plunkett, but by Lord Chancellor Ponsonby, whom the hon. and learned member for Kerry had justly eulogized as one of the best and most disinterested of men. When it was said, that this was a case in which a Lord Chancellor was endeavouring to decide upon his own case, and to promote a pecuniary interest of his own, he (the Attorney General) must be permitted to remind the House that this was a case of pecuniary interest on both sides, and, moreover, that on the part of the Master of the Rolls, it was a pecuniary interest which he had first mooted in 1826, after allowing it to lie dormant from 1814. When, too, it was said, that the Lord Chancellor of Ireland was deciding this right in his own favour, by not allowing this Bill to be discussed, he was compelled to remind the House that the present Master of the Rolls in Ireland had also decided the right in his own favour, by insisting on his right to appoint the Secretary to his Court. His hon. and learned friend, the Solicitor General for Ireland, had never said, that the office of the Master of the Rolls was a new office; all that he had said was, that it was first made an efficient office in the administration of justice in the year 1801. Sir M. Smith was then appointed to the office which he held, till the appointment of Mr. Curran. There was no evidence as to who had made out the decrees of that Court previous to that time, or as to what compensation had been received for making them out. The office of Secretary to the Master of the Rolls, supposing such office to have ever been previously in existence, was only revived in the present century, and out of that revival all the present difficulty had arisen. The Master of the Rolls must, therefore, have frequently surrendered his right to this appointment; and why he had now revived it, he (the Attorney General) could not conceive. In the year 1806, Mr. Curran, who was then Master of the Rolls, was told that he had not the right of appointing to this office. He would not press the question as it stood between Mr. Curran and Lord Chancellor Ponsonby, on account of the private friendship which for some time existed between them. Mr. Curran, however, did not claim his right whilst Mr. Ponsonby was Lord Chancellor. But when Mr. Ponsonby retired from office, there was no reason why the same feelings which had actuated him towards Mr. Ponsonby, should actuate him towards Mr. Ponsonby's successor, Lord Chancellor Manners. On the contrary, as every man in eminent station had others dependent upon him, whose interests he was bound to advance, Mr. Curran must have had many persons around him interested in calling upon him to exercise his right of appointing a Secretary, supposing that he had been of opinion that such right was vested in his office. Mr. Curran remained Master of the Rolls from the year 1807 to the year 1814, and during all that time he had never put forward any such claim as was now put forward by Sir William Macmahon. If there was any right to this claim in the year 1832, the same right must have existed in the year 1807, and Mr. Curran must have had the same right to try it then as Sir William Macmahon had to try it now. But Mr. Curran never had tried it, and therefore he inferred that Mr. Curran must have been aware that there were good reasons why he should not come forward and attempt to exercise this alleged right. In the year 1814, Sir William Macmahon was appointed Master of the Rolls, Lord Manners being then Chancellor; and it was now said, that the reason why Sir William Macmahon had not then claimed to exercise his right was, because his friend. Lord Manners, was the individual who held the Seals. But how long, he would ask, was this plea of friendship to hold? He had himself no doubt that Sir William Macmahon would at that time have appointed a Secretary to his Court, had he not been fully impressed with the idea that he had no right to make any such appointment. Indeed, that right hon. Judge was bound in duty to his successors to have tried that right, supposing him to have been convinced of its existence. What took place in the year 1815 afforded a strong proof to the same effect. In that year an Act was passed to regulate the offices and fees of his Court. Now, was it possible to suppose that, under such circumstances, no communication would have been made between the Lord Chancellor of Ireland and the Master of the Rolls, unless both had supposed that the present state of things was the legal state of things? It had been stated by the present Master of the Rolls, that in the year 1816, the Lord Chancellor and himself had entered into a joint examination not only of the constitution of their respective Courts, but also of the duties which their officers had to perform, and of the fees which their officers received for the performance of them. Was it possible to suppose that, after looking over these offices, the Master of the Rolls could have said to the Lord Chancellor, "Here is an important appointment in my Court which you now fill up, but which I claim the right of filling up, and for want of which I am compelled to draw up my decrees myself;" or, that, if he had said so, the Lord Chancellor would have replied, "Never mind it, we are very good friends, we will say nothing on the point at present?" He, therefore, was obliged to conclude, that at that time the Master of the Rolls had decided against the validity of his present claim. Again, in 1824, the 5th of George 4th passed. That Act recites, that the Ministerial offices of the Court of Chancery in Ireland require regulating, and that that, in some instances, might be effected by an order of the Court, though in others the interference of Parliament was requisite. If at this time the Master of the Rolls had made good his claim, one line in this Act would have settled the whole; and yet the Act was passed without any notice of the question being taken by the Master of the Rolls. But that very Act did still more; for it regulated the fees to be received by limiting the Secretary of the Lord Chancellor to certain fees; so that, if it were now decided that the Master of the Rolls had the right of appointing this Secretary, the fees that this new officer might demand would be unlimited, as no provision was made for them in the Act; but on the Act passing, there had not been even so much as a reservation of the right. In 1827, it was true, that a reservation had been made; but then a different state of things was in existence. The Lord Chancellor Hart beard this claim, at the request of the Master of the Rolls; and the Solicitor General of Ireland appeared as counsel for Sir William Macmahon. The arguments on the question lasted five days; and the Lord Chancellor was of opinion that the Master of the Rolls was not possessed of the right which he claimed. He (the Attorney General) did not at all mean to say that it was desirable for a Judge to decide in his own cause; but, nevertheless, he could feel that cases might arise (and this was one of them) where such a duty necessarily devolved on the Judge; and it was his firm belief, that if there had been anything like doubt in the case, Lord Chancellor Hart would have given it against himself, rather than in his own favour. But shortly after this, Lord Plunkett succeeded to the office; and then, for the first time, they heard of such a Bill as this in the House of Commons—a Bill for which he was not aware that there was anything like a precedent. It, however, seemed to be supposed by some hon. Gentlemen, that if a Judge required a Secretary to make out his orders, the power of appointing that Secretary was necessarily vested in that Judge. But such was not the case; for in the Courts of England many officers were employed who were appointed by the Crown, or other parties, not being the Judges of those Courts. But if the position thus set up by hon. Gentlemen was correct, it necessarily followed that the interference of the Lord Chancellor in the appointment was illegal; and by the law of England, wherever there was anything illegal, there was a legal remedy for it; and he, therefore, thought, that it was a little extraordinary to be called on to pass an Act for such a purpose, that should have reference to one individual case. But if, on the other hand, the Lord Chancellor had a right to appoint this officer, then it would be a strange interference on the part of that House to give the right to another person who had himself over and over again decided that he had no such privilege. It would be little less than weakness for the Lord Chancellor to sacrifice the public duty that belonged to him of controlling the officers of the Court of Chancery, from a fear of personal imputation being thrown out against him. He was quite aware of the maxim which hurl been ((noted of Lord Coke—that even an Act of Parliament would be void that required a man to judge his own cause; and he acquiesced in the soundness of that maxim. But that was not a proposition parallel with the present instance. In this case the matter was altogether incidental to the particular office, and referred not to the person, but to the Court over which that person presided. The hon. and learned Gentleman had referred to the case of a disputed possession of an acre of land; but he (the Attorney General) would say, that if the possession of that acre could be shown, by long holding, to be in one man, the Court of Chancery would not interfere to destroy that possession. That was as clear a case as any case arising out of the Statute of Limitations. This seemed to him to be a personal Bill altogether; and he, therefore, could not admit the justice of it; it was equal, in other words, to saying—here is a petition, and we will, therefore, frame a Bill by which the petitioner shall obtain all that he is asking. If Parliament chose to say, that no Judge of a Court ought to have the power of appointing any officer at all, there was something in that which he could understand; but the present Bill proceeded on no such grounds. In the first place, he contended that the decision complained of was not the decision of Lord Plunkett, but of previous Lord Chancellors; and, in the second place, he contended that this appointment had long been acquiesced in by the present Master of the Rolls, as well as Mr. Curran; and he thought that on these grounds, Sir William Macmahon had not entitled himself to a peculiar interposition in his favour. He had not made out a case sufficiently clear to convince hon. Gentlemen that the decision of former Lord Chancellors ought to beset aside; and, under such circumstances as these, to interfere in a particular case, and to make a particular law, would be establishing a precedent exceedingly dangerous and objectionable.

Sir Robert Peel

There may be some advantage in breaking the tenor of this debate which has hitherto proceeded from one professional Gentleman to another in uninterrupted succession; and I, therefore, take the liberty of offering myself to the House for a few minutes, more especially, as I think the question lies in an exceedingly small compass, and that a long series of legal arguments only tends to embarrass it. I, therefore, being an unlearned and an untechnical person, shall beg leave to address myself to that portion of the House which, I dare say, is but little dis- posed to enter into the abstruseness and technical nicety of the legal part of the question. In the first place, I beg to say, that I differ from the hon. and learned member for Kerry; for, till I shall hear the fact announced from the Chair, I will never believe that a majority of this House will consent to stifle the Bill thus early, without even allowing its clauses to be examined in a Committee. I know, that there is in this House a general disposition among Members to act with their party, and it is right that it should be so; for no party could exist unless its members were willing to sacrifice their individual opinions on minor details, for the purpose of combining together the more efficiently. But, Sir, I have had some experience of the House of Commons; and, on a question of mere individual justice, I have rarely witnessed the interference of political or party feeling; and I, therefore, feel satisfied, that, in the present case, Members will be guided in their votes by a sense of justice alone. The whole of the argument of the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite seems to me to have been built on the hypothesis that the Master of the Rolls has been guilty of negligence in not having claimed this right before, and that, therefore, we ought to punish him by refusing him his right now. But I, as a Member of Parliament, have nothing to do with the negligence of Sir William Macmahon, even if it be proved. If he has been negligent, let him be punished, if you please; but I contend that this is a matter of principle, and that we have no right to let the negligence of the individual holder of an office militate to the prejudice of the office. I cannot conceive a more dangerous principle to act upon than that laid down by the hon. and learned Gentleman; for if once admitted, it would immediately open the door to all sorts of collusion. Our duty is to look to the constitution of the office: and the public objects for which it was established. It has been asked whether the House of Commons will undertake to decide between adverse claims; for the Attorney General says, that we are called upon by this Bill to adjudicate this question. No such thing. All that we shall do by this Bill will be to give the adjudication of the question to an impartial tribunal. The hon. and learned Gentleman has endeavoured to illustrate his argument by saying, that if a man was in possession of an acre of land for twenty years, the Court of Chancery would not interfere to deprive him of that possession. Very true. But here is one of the claimants to the acre that decides in favour of his own claim, and will permit no appeal from his own decison; and all that we want to do by this Bill is, to remove so monstrous an injustice. The hon. and learned Gentleman has told us, that there is no legal right in this country without a remedy. But we say, in answer—here is a legal right without its remedy; for an action for fees will not lie; and, by the Lord Chancellor, a bar has been placed to the trial of the question by a fair tribunal. Sir William Macmahon has taken the highest legal opinions, and they all concur in saying, that no trial can be had as the law stands at present. After this, I ask, will the hon. and learned Gentleman consent to stifle a Bill which proposes a remedy for a wrong, and thus exemplifies and carries into effect the very doctrine that he himself has propounded. And now let me request all those who are ready to forget political feeling on this occasion, to consider what is the object of the present Bill? The whole of that object is, that this question may be tried before an impartial tribunal. Is that just, or is it not? Is there a sufficiently strong primâ facie case set forth to make this demand a just one? If I do not prove to the satisfaction of every one. that there is such a primâ facie case made out, I can only say, that I shall be more disappointed in the result of this argument than ever I was in my life. When this question was originally brought before the House by my hon. and much lamented friend, the late Mr. North, long before Government took any part in it— long before any heat or warmth on either side was displayed—several hon. Gentlemen took part in the discussion, and every one agreed that this House was bound to facilitate the decision of this question before a fair and unobjectionable tribunal. From the list of Gentlemen who spoke on that occasion, I will select a few names; and I will take on myself to say, that if it were intended to refer the matter to arbitration, not one of those names could be objected to as arbitrators. I find among the speakers on that occasion, the names of the present Solicitor General for Ireland, who said, "With respect to Lord Plunkett, he would not take on himself to say what would be his decision on the case, should it come under his notice; but, at all events, he might remark, that the Lord Chancellor had no power of his own to reverse the decision, till it was legally brought before him by one of the parties in the shape of a re-hearing, and that had not been done; so that, at present, of course the two previous judicial orders of Lord Ponsonby and Sir Anthony Hart, remained as they did.*" I find, also, the hon. member for Stafford (Mr. John Campbell), whose opinion was, that, from the character of the noble Lord who was now Lord Chancellor for Ireland, he would at once yield the point without carrying the case to trial. Mr. Cutlar Fergusson said, on that occasion, "For his own part, he had formed a decided opinion upon the merits of the case, and he was bound to say, he had not a doubt that the Master of the Rolls, as the independent Judge of an independent Court, ought to appoint his own Secretary. The present state of things, by which he was deprived of that right, ought to endure no longer." And Mr. Serjeant Wilde said, that "he hoped that the present Lord Chancellor would co-operate with the Master of the Rolls to have this question investigated. He was, however, strongly inclined to believe, that the right of appointment rested with the Master of the Rolls." I believe it is not irregular to allude to those Gentlemen by name, as the debate has now become a matter of history. The opinion of all these four Gentlemen was unanimous that inquiry ought to take place, and that the decision of the question ought to be referred to a competent tribunal. But I do not ask the House to act fully up to the principle laid down by these hon. and learned Gentlemen; I only ask, that, as there are great doubts as to the right, that it will permit the matter to go before a competent tribunal. The question now is, that this Bill should be examined in Committee—at all events, let it go there, —let alterations be made in it, if yon please—let care be taken that there is not the slightest word inserted to favour or prejudice the claim of either party; but do not stifle a Bill that has only justice for its object. In the simplest matters care is taken by the law that a Magistrate shall not be judge in his own cause; and there is a peculiar necessity for this salutary precaution in that country of which *Hansard's Parl. Debates, vol. vii. p. 95. Lord Plunkett is the Lord Chancellor. But if it is right that the Magistrates should be thus checked, let him who has the selection and the superintendence of those Magistrates, be enabled by this Bill to assume that high tone which he ought to assume. The duty of his great trust is to control the partial and interested acts of those who have judicial authority, to remove the obstructions to equal justice, to prevent the commission of wrong by men being Judges in their own cause. To empower him to do this with authority and effect, let us remove this impediment to justice, and relieve the Lord Chancellor himself from the painful and invidious task of being a Judge without appeal in his own cause.

Mr. Spence

was opposed to the Bill, in consequence of what had fallen from the hon. member for Kerry, who had advocated it, and who had stated that the fees, the right of which were contested, were useless to the public, and ought to be abolished. He objected to the Bill on other grounds, and he would ask why one of the two Joint-Secretaries of the present Chancellor of Ireland did not attend the duties required from a Seceretary in the Court of the Master of the Rolls? In the question, he conceived there was a third party interested—he meant the suitors, and he was of opinion, that the House of Commons should never become the arena for the discussion of a question as to whether one or the other of two Judges should be entitled to certain patronage, when it was admitted that the particular patronage was as to fees which were not only useless to suitors, but which ought to be abolished.

Sir Edward Sugden

differed in what had fallen from his hon. and learned friend opposite. The public would not be benefitted by the view he had taken, because the fees were both properly receiveable and payable. The question was, merely whether the fees so received ought to be divided. Let his hon. and learned friend introduce a bill to reduce or abolish entirely these fees, if he thought proper, but that was not the question before the House. In his opinion there never was a claim so loudly calling for elaborate discussion, or more justly entitled to careful inquiry, than the present, and he would, say that to refuse this Bill would be to do a great injustice. It had been said, that the question had been discussed, and disposed of by Sir Anthony Hart; but that learned Judge was a party to the question, and he would have acted, he thought, more wisely and more to his own credit, on the occasion, if he had called in some of the Judges to sit with him as assessors, in the hearing of the discussion upon the question, than in trying it alone. He thought it but fair to try the right at once, which could be done if the measure now introduced, were passed. It would then be sufficient merely to state the question in dispute between the parties, not conferring any powers upon the Master of the Rolls, and the question would then come before the House of Lords, who alone were competent to try it. With respect to the observation which had been urged, that, if the Bill was allowed to pass, power would be given to the Master of the Rolls to appoint a Secretary whose fees would be unrestricted, he would merely say let the Government introduce a clause into the Bill to limit the fees payable to such an officer.

Mr. Stanley

begged to say one word in justice to Lord Plunkett. His noble friend had over and over again expressed his willingness to submit the question to any arbitration whatever, provided the Master of the Rolls would go to that arbitration, on a question whch should not involve the removal of the individual who at this moment held the office. His noble friend was quite willing to have the question decided as far as any future appointment of his own, or his successor, or as far as any future appointment of Sir W. Macmahon or his successor should be concerned. This proposition the Master of the Rolls, however, had positively declined.

Sir Edward Sugden

had never heard this stated before, and he never was more surprised by any statement. The office of Secretary was held during pleasure, and indeed, the fact had appeared that Mr. Long who was Secretary to Lord Chancellor Hart, had been dismissed by Lord Plunkett, but that, on the solicitation of the Chancery Bar of Ireland, and from other circumstances, it was found convenient to continue him in office, jointly, with a relation of the noble Lord, and, out of 3,000l. the annual amount of salary, Mr. Long was to receive the sum of 500l. From this fact the country and the House would form an opinion. The question to be tried, was one of right, in which no man had a vested interest, and was it, therefore, right or proper for Lord Plunkett to insist upon a right which the persons holding the of- fice did not insist upon themselves? It was too much for the noble Lord to say, "give me all, and try the question as against my successors."

Mr. Cutlar Fergusson

said, he continued to retain the same opinion that he had formerly expressed, and it was with some pleasure that he had observed the right hon. Secretary rise, as he had hoped that he had done so for the purpose of announcing, on the part of the noble Lord, that there was no objection to this Bill passing into a law. He, therefore, hardly need say, that he had been much disappointed when he heard the right hon. Gentleman announce that the noble Lord held out, on the part of the present Secretary retaining the office. It had been remarked, that no precedent had been found of any petitions being addressed to the Master of the Rolls; he begged to say, the fact was otherwise, for there were no less than 875 petitions addressed to that Judge. He thought it was most-extraordinary that the Lord Chancellor of Ireland should insist upon trying this question, or only leaving it to be settled hereafter by arbitration, when he had no interest in it. The question had been amply discussed. It was only whether an independent Judge should have the appointment of his own officer or not. The convenience of the Court, and of the suitors, required that the Master of the Rolls should have the appointment of his own Secretary.

Mr. Stephenson

said, the only object of the Bill was fees, and fees only. It was to take from those that were entitled to fees under an Act of Parliament, and give those fees to others upon a new authority. The several Judges in England did not appoint their own officers. The whole matter was only a dispute between two Judges in Ireland. The question was, however, already decided by Acts of Parliament. The statute, the 4th of the late King, provided for all the fees that could be legally taken in the Court of Chancery, and declared those fees should be paid to the Chancellor's Secretary, and prohibited, under penalties, their being paid to anybody else. That Act was not passed by the influence of the Lord Chancellor of Ireland, nor was the Master of the Rolls ignorant of it. He defied the hon. Gentleman opposite to produce any instance in which the Secretary to the Master of the Rolls had performed the duties of the Secretary to the Lord Chancellor. If the Master of the Rolls were to appoint a Secretary, he could not take the fees, unless the House put aside the Act of Parliament he had alluded to.

Mr. Shaw

admitted that this was a question of fees; but he contended that that question had been raised by the Lord Chancellor. The Master of the Rolls was anxious that the issue in dispute should be fairly decided, as would be manifest from the following correspondence which had taken place between the parties since the discussion of the matter last Session.

"September 30th, 1831. "Let the order of the Lord Chancellor Hart be made the subject of an appeal to the House of Lords, and all objections to the jurisdiction be waived; and let the appeal be proceeded in as if the order had been pronounced in a case in which Mr. Shaw was plaintiff, and Messrs. Long and M'Causeland defendants; but on this express condition, that any order to be pronounced on such appeal shall in nowise affect the Secretaries of the present Lord Chancellor. If this proposition be not satisfactory to the Master of the Rolls, the Chancellor has no objection to the adoption of any other course of proceeding which the Master of the Rolls may suggest for the trial of the right, subject to the above condition."

To this strange proposal for one legal, much less one judicial, person to make to another, the Master of the Rolls wrote a reply, which he would now read. It was addressed to the right hon. Secretary for Ireland:— Warren's Hotel, 30 Sept. 1831. I have just had the honour of receiving your letter of this morning, and most anxiously and willingly accord with the proposition made by Lord Plunkett, that the right should be decided upon in an appeal to the House of Lords from the order of Sir Anthony Hart, of the 13th of December, 1827; and all objections to the jurisdiction waived, by treating it as a proceeding in a cause. But I lament to find that this privilege of having my title decided by an uninterested tribunal, which would appear to me to be ex debito justitiœ, is to be only conceded to me on this express condition—"That any order to be pronounced on such appeal shall in nowise affect the Secretaries of the present Lord Chancellor, who will be respondents in the appeal." This condition, permit me to submit for your reconsideration, is not, as it appears to my humble understanding, consistent with the ordinary and established principles of justice; for, as to any objections of vested rights, or surprise in the assertion of title, I conceive that there is no ground for the application of either consideration to sustain such a condition. As to vested rights, it is not the solicitation of a new law to take from the office of the Chancellor rights lawfully be- longing to his office: but it is the assertion of title by my appointee, since November, 1827, to recover, by a superior adversary title, a right which belongs to my office (if I have the right), and to which the Lord Chancellor's Secretaries have no right, and the very question to be decided will be, whether my appointee or they have the vested right. With respect to surprise, I have only to refer to my letter to Lord Melbourne, of 3rd December, 1830, which detailed the measures adopted by me from December, 1827, for the reclamation of the rights of my office, and for a remedy to try my title—to my letter to Lord Plunkett, dated 9th December, 1830, enclosing a copy of this letter before his Lordship's appointment—to my letter to Lord Anglesey, enclosing another copy of this letter, and to the formal judicial protest and assertion of title entered in the Register's Office, and made the moment Mr. M'Causeland presented himself to act as Secretary at the Rolls Court, and before he commenced to act (a copy of which I beg to subjoin). As to this condition, very strong objections occur to my mind on the first perusal of it; first, if, by my contract, such a condition were made, neither appellant nor respondent would have any interest in a question of title to be decided; but, by this condition stipulated for, the parties would agree that the decision should be without any other effect than to decide a speculative question of title, without interest to either party, and, as a decision upon this speculative question, it would be wholly vain, for a succeeding Chancellor would have a right to say, that a decision made in a case where, by contract, the respondents had no interest to defend their rights, would not bind, and a succeeding Master of the Rolls, in language not complimentary to my memory, would, perhaps, denounce my act in seeking to have this speculative question decided, while I contracted to exclude myself from interest in the subject. Secondly, I should carry on a litigation contracting that I would not exercise the right and title, if established. And, thirdly, every succeeding Chancellor would, in like manner, say that the question should never he tried with his then Secretary, except upon the same condition; and with the greatest deference for the opinions of yourself and of the two personages named in your letter. I beg leave to express my regret, after having consulted my law friends, that I cannot, either as a Judge or an individual possessing an independent mind, submit to this condition; and that, therefore, I must reluctantly trouble Parliament with the consideration of the subject. He had only further to observe upon one circumstance not before adverted to by any hon. Member in the course of the debate—that was, that in the year 1718, as appeared by returns made under the 4 George 1st, the Chancellor himself had no secretary: a record of the existence of such an officer is not extant until 1734. Shortly after that period, licenses of absence were granted to successive Masters of the Rolls down to within a short time before the 1st George 3rd; when the ministration of justice was excepted from the office, and so continued until 1801; so that the usage from 1734 to 1801 could prove nothing in favour of the Lord Chancellor's claim, there having been no need of such an officer as a Secretary to the Master of the Rolls. Then in 1801, upon the appointment of Sir Michael Smith, he named a Secretary, as also did Mr. Curran, when he became Master of the Rolls in 1806, and that being met by the order of Lord Chancellor Ponsonby, the matter so remained until the present Master of the Rolls succeeded to office. He would not now argue whether the Master of the Rolls was right or wrong in yielding to feelings of delicacy, and not pressing his claim while Lord Manners continued to hold the Great Seal of Ireland. However his having once said, that he would not do so, answered all the objections which had been made as to any waiver of his right, on the several occasions which had been alluded to, during the Chancellorship of Lord Manners. He had now only to press upon the House, that the Master of the Rolls having deliberately urged, what he considered as a claim of strict right, he did not call upon the House to decide the question, but to afford him the means of trying it at law, unaffected by the acts of his opponent. He had not submitted his case to Parliament, until he had exhausted every other expedient to procure an impartial trial. The Lord Chancellor was willing that the right should be tried, provided that the pecuniary interests of his appointee, who was named four years after the appointee of the Master of the Rolls, were secured. That proposition could not, of course, be acceded to. He (Mr. Shaw) was, however, ready to consent, on the part of the Master of the Rolls, that the whole question should be left to the decision of any two hon. and learned Gentlemen on the opposite side of the House.

Mr. Stanley,

after what had been stated, said he felt it necessary to make an observation or two in explanation of the grounds of the noble and learned Lord's conduct, to which such frequent allusion had been made. That noble Lord had been all along ready and willing to refer the question of the right to take these fees to any fair and impartial mode of settlement, whether by means of arbitration or appeal to the House of Lords; but he felt that he could not conscientiously, whilst assenting to arbitrate on the mere and strict question of right, give up the present pecuniary rights of individuals who had been in the habit of receiving for years back those fees. The Lord Chancellor in effect said, "Let the Master of the Rolls bring the question before the House of Lords: to that I accede; but still it is my bounden duty to take care that the interest belonging to the Lord Chancellor and supported by Act of Parliament shall not suffer." To any prospective arrangement I will accede, but to a compromise of the existing interests of any person I will not accede. He thought he was perfectly justified in stating thus much in defence of the noble Lord's motives, after what had transpired during the debate.

Mr. Hume

expressed his deep concern that the question had not been long since set at rest by some fair mode of adjustment, rather than such an exposure of persons in high official stations should have taken place. The House was bound, after what it had heard, to pass this Bill, nor could he for a moment admit the propriety of allowing a noble and learned Lord to be abetted by his Majesty's Ministers in this scandalous proposal of that noble Lord to consent to an arbitration involving the rights of others, but by the restriction with which the noble Lord accompanied the offer, deciding his own case. It was but too true this was an appeal to the House on the question which of two parties should have the right to fees amounting to somewhere about 500l. or 600l. a year, and that Ministers appeared to think it was a fit and proper case on which they should make their stand as a bar in the way of justice. Yes—as far as he could perceive, his Majesty's Ministers now attempted to interpose, and influence the House against passing a Bill which he thought they were bound to support—except they were prepared to be considered the active agents of injustice.

Colonel Torrens

said the question really was, that the Bill called upon the Parliament to enable two law officers of Ireland to deprive a third party of his right. It was an ex post facto law to do injustice to the suitor for the benefit of two persons who disputed about dividing his spoils.

Mr. John Campbell

thought, that the opinions of the hon. Member who spoke last, were neither professional nor sound. He deplored that this discussion should have arisen, from the reverence he entertained for our institutions, and his respect for the individuals. The offer of Lord Plunkett was wholly unfair, and he regretted that a mode of settling the question had not been found, without bringing it forward in that House. Lord Plunkett made an offer to try the question when his interest in it should have ceased. That was like a man in possession of an estate which was claimed by another man, who said to him, "Oh let your claim lie over till I am dead, and then I will allow the question to be settled by arbitration." The House, he thought, was bound to pass the Bill, and he should give it his support. He was bound to do that as an independent Member of Parliament.

Mr. Paget

said, he thought it degrading to the character of these two high law officers to permit their disputes to be continued. From all he had heard, he was fully of opinion, that the present Bill was not the Bill which could bring the question to a satisfactory settlement, but that another legislative measure should be introduced of a very different complexion.

Sir John Bourke

was of the same opinion. The hon. and learned Gentlemen who had taken such an active part in the discussion, only disputed who was to have the fees. They had no consideration whatever for those who were to pay them. They had not attempted to show that the payment of such demands was essential to the administration of justice. Their only object was, to substitute the emoluments and patronage of one law officer to that of another.

Mr. Goulburn

said, the question involved in the discussion, was, whether one law officer was to usurp the claims of another, and decide in his own behalf.

Mr. Leader

regretted that two such high judicial officers should have their attention abstracted from the duties of their own Courts, to dispute about the appointment of Secretaries, and the receipt of certain fees. He feared such disagreements would not be put an end to by a decision on the subject, for the heats that had been raised, must have in some degree inflamed each party, and the result might be, that it would be carried into more important matters, and the administration of justice would suffer from the two principal officers in the Court of Chancery having opposing interests. On these accounts he wished to hear nothing more of the Bill, but if some legislative measure was necessary, and he believed it was, he hoped the Government would take higher grounds and legislate for the whole court on the most advantageous terms for the suitors, without regarding the petty interests of the chief functionaries.

Lord Ingestrie

said, the only way to bring the question fairly to issue was, by going into a Committee, and therefore he felt himself called upon to support the Bill.

Mr. Henry Grattan

said, he must oppose the Bill, on the grounds that as all previous Lord Chancellors had exercised the privilege, it was unfair to attempt to deprive the present one of what had been enjoyed by his predecessors. He was convinced that the noble Lord (Plunkett) acted with perfect disinterestedness. He had invariably shown the greatest indifference about fees, and preferred preserving his consistency to the emoluments of office. As a proof of which he had accepted his present situation at a reduced salary, and had continued in office the Secretary appointed by his predecessor.

Mr. Shaw

said, the secret of the latter appointment was, that Mr. Long did the chief part of the work as Secretary, for a salary of 500l. a year, while the Lord Chancellor's nominal Secretary, who was his nephew, and a minor, received 2,500l., this was a curious proof of consistency and disinterestedness.

Mr. Nicholson Calvert,

as one of those who felt it his duty to support the Government, would, of course, support their resistance to the Bill as a Government question.

The House divided on the original Motion: Ayes 84; Noes 88—Majority 4.