HC Deb 13 August 1833 vol 20 cc578-82

After Mr. Hughes Hughes and Sir Francis Vincent had severally withdrawn the Motions of which they had given notice, in relation to the case of Mr. Harvey and the Inns of Court,

Mr. Harvey

said, that this subject had been before the House many times, and if he had not shown that restlessness of feeling that might have been expected, he would candidly state the reason why. He wished it to be expressly understood, that so far as these Motions affected him, his feelings were not, in the slightest degree, disturbed by them. Every Gentleman in that House came there with the credentials of the approbation of his constituents. So far as this was a recommendation, there was not a Member of that House who had a prouder testimonial than his. He was now addressing the sixth Parliament of which he had been a Member, and always for the same place, and the same constituents. There might be Members who had represented places for a longer space of time, but not under the same circumstances as he had represented Colchester. Some Gentlemen represented millions, not minds; and by the force of their property they selected the places for which they sat. Not so with him. He was proud to say, that he had the personal as well as the political, approbation of his constituents. over whom he possessed not the slightest influence that property could give. Under these circumstances, he required no testimonial of the approbation of that House. Still, however, there was no one who viewed that House, collectively or individually, with more respect than he did, or who more coveted their esteem. So much so, indeed, that if there was any Gentle, man who wished for an explanation of that Motion, or of anything connected with his life, he should be happy to give any information in his power. When the hon. Baronet had given notice of the Motion just now withdrawn, he had selected fourteen Gentlemen, Members of that House, who were not at all individually connected with him, to listen to his statement. That statement was made, and they came to an unanimous resolution, that his conduct throughout was satisfactory to them as Gentlemen. The reasons why he did not wish to enter at great length into the subject at present were these—Last Session it was brought forward on a Motion to refer the matter to a Select Committee, and it was opposed, but so strong was the feeling of the House in his favour, that it was lost by only a small majority. After that, he renewed the subject, and the Attorney General of that day promised that it should undergo inquiry before the Common Law Commission. He then appeared before the Common Law Commissioners, and he learned with regret, that while they were prepared to receive any statement which would lead to an improvement in the mode of admitting students, first to the Inns of Court, and afterwards to the Bar, they did not feel it to be within their province to investigate any particular case of injustice 'and oppression which might have previously happened. He thought it also right to present a petition to the twelve Judges, praying them either to look into the matter themselves, or to direct the Benchers again to examine into the case. The Judges said, in answer, that as he had not renewed his application to the Benchers, they could not interfere. He conceived that this answer of theirs was an intimation that he ought to renew his application to the Benchers. He accordingly did so, and then the Benchers appointed a day on which he was to attend them and to be heard. He attended accordingly, and then, for the first time, they conceded that he should be attended by Counsel, and should have a short-hand writer present. This concession from monopoly was pleasing and satis- factory to him personally: but in the mean time many Members of that House had taken an active part in the affair, and on his intimating it to the fourteen or fifteen Gentlemen to whom he had already alluded, they expressed a desire to be present at the decision of it. They went with him to the Temple—they required admission into the Benchers' room, and then the learned Bench came to the conclusion that those Members should not be admitted. He mentioned this merely to show that he had ever anxiously wished to have these circumstances investigated. It appeared to him most extraordinary that while this House exercised a sovereign jurisdiction over all matters and things, and brought within its cognizance every thing that took place in Courts of Justice, there should exist one tribunal—

Lord Althorp

rose to order. He had not interrupted the hon. and learned Gentleman while his statement was merely personal, although there was no Motion regularly before the House; but he begged leave to suggest that it would be better, as there was no question before the House, to refrain from criticising or attacking any other party.

Mr. Harvey

said, that he did not intend either to criticise or to attack any other party in the statement of facts which he had just made. It was not his wish, nay more, it was not his interest to do so. Though there was at present no Motion before the House, he said that this was a subject in which the public ought to take an interest, in which it should take an interest, in which it must take an interest; for these inns of court claimed to exercise a species of despotism which was positively insupportable. He was stating, before he was interrupted, that several of his friends. Members of that House, had applied to be admitted into the benchers' room. The benchers' declared that they were not admissible. He then appealed to his friends as to what he should do, and they were of opinion that he would be sacrificing a great principle, for which he had long been contending, if he did not withdraw his application altogether from a conclave which formed its decisions in a private room. So much with regard to the history of the past: now with regard to the future. He had sent a letter to the benchers of the Inner Temple to say, that he would renew his application to be called to the bar in the next Session if they would allow besides himself, and his counsel, and the short-hand-writer, one reporter for the whole of the public Press, and one reporter for a paper belonging to the county of Essex, to be present at the discussion. To disarm the benchers of every pretext, he did mean, if they would not yield to this proposition, to compel them to enter upon a reconsideration of his case, subject, however, to a protest on his part against the irregularity of their proceedings. He now offered publicly to let this whole matter be referred to any number of gentlemen in that House without regard to party, great or small, three or thirty; and he promised, that if that number did not come to a unanimous resolution that he had been treated with injustice and oppression by the learned bench, he would, within twenty-four hours after their decision was made known, move for a new writ for the borough of Colchester.

Sir James Scarlett

said, that though the whole of this proceeding was highly irregular, yet, as he was the only bencher present out of the large number who had been charged by the hon. Member with injustice and oppression, he must be permitted to say, that the decision of the benchers in the hon. Member's case had been confirmed by the twelve Judges unanimously, and therefore if oppression and injustice were to be charged against the benchers of the Inner Temple, he desired that the twelve Judges might also take their share of it.

Mr. Harvey

observed, that, without meaning any disrespect to the hon. and learned Gentleman who had just spoken, he must say, that no Member of Parliament could so easily convey in a few words very harsh and ungenerous imputations. He meant, he repeated, no disrespect to the hon. and learned Gentleman, but he was bound to state, that what the hon. and learned Gentleman had just asserted respecting the twelve Judges was not true. This case had not been referred to the twelve Judges, and that was the very point of which he complained. The twelve Judges of England formed a tribunal sitting in open Court, and not capable of sitting in private on any case. All that they had said was, that they were not competent to depart from the decision of the benchers, and though Mr. Brougham and Mr. Denman were standing at the door of Serjeants' Inn, with twenty witnesses to be examined, the twelve Judges came to the resolution that they had not power to examine one amongst them.

Here the conversation dropped.