HC Deb 19 April 1833 vol 17 cc369-71

Mr. John Romilly moved the second reading of the Payment of Debts' Bill. As the law at present stood, a man possessed of 10,000l. a-year landed property might die in debt-say a year's income; but if he left no personal property, his creditors would be deprived of their just rights; or, at any rate, be dependent upon the precarious sense of justice of the successor. A man left trustee of personal property, and investing this in land, if he died, that property then came to the heir-at-law, and the real owners might be made beggars. This was not a case, perhaps, of common occurrence, any more than parricide; but there ought to be provisions against every sort of offence and fraud. For this cud, it would not be necessary to make any very great alterations in the existing laws; and before giving his plan, he would cite the authority of a learned Judge, who, whatever fault had been found with him, was indisputably one of the greatest and most enlightened Judges that had ever sat on the Bench—he meant Lord Mansfield. That great man said, "that every honest man should make a charge on his estate in his will, to provide for the payment of his debts; and he who did not so, might be said to sin in his grave." The object of the present alteration in the law was, to make it imperative on all persons to make this provision for the payment of their debts. He was sorry to say, that a bill, similar to this, had already been five times introduced to the consideration of the Legislature; but hitherto without success. Four times it had passed that House; but as many times it had been rejected by the Lords. The first was introduced by an eminent lawyer in 1792—It passed this House, but was rejected in the other. The second was introduced in 1806, and was rejected in this House by a majority of two to (me the three other bills were introduced in the years 1814, 1815, and 1816, were all passed by this House, and all rejected by the House of Lords. The great objection to all these previous bills was, that they drew a distinction between freehold and copyhold property. That objection was removed in the present, and, therefore, he owned, he entertained a very confident expectation that it would meet with the approbation of both Houses. When the Bill was last rejected in the House of Lords, a noble Lord entered his protest against its rejection in terms which expressed so clearly the grounds upon which he thought such a measure should be passed, that he did not know that he could conclude better than by stating to the House the substance of that protest:—" It is highly inexpedient and unjust, that persons who have contracted debts, and have the means of paying them, should be allowed at their deaths to transmit to their heirs or their devisees the secure enjoyment of their property, while by the non-performance of their engagements, their unsatisfied creditors may be reduced to bankruptcy and ruin."* That protest was signed "Grey." He begged leave to move that the Bill be read a second time.

The Bill read a second time.