§ The Sheriffs of London appeared at the Bar, and presented a Petition from the Lord Mayor, Aldermen, and Common Council, against certain parts of the Bill, for the Abolition of Imprisonment for Debt.
§ Mr. Alderman Wood moved that the petition be printed.
§ Sir John Campbell
said, that this petition was undoubtedly entitled to the greatest respect and attention, coming as it did from such an enlightened quarter. He thought, however, that the objections which the objectors made to certain portions of the bill were likely to be much obviated, if not altogether removed, as certain clauses had been introduced into it by the Select Committee, which gave him great hopes that the measure would meet with the unanimous assent of the House and the country. He begged to mention, that one of those clauses was one that put the recovery of book debts upon the same footing as that of bills and bonds. Another clause was, allowing compositions to be made by debtors with their creditors without resorting to law at all, so that the money which otherwise would go to the lawyers would go to their creditors. There had been other new clauses introduced into the Bill, by which he trusted all objections to the Bill would be removed, and that the measure would pass with the unanimous assent of Parliament and the country.
referring to clause 18 of the Bill, asked if it was intended to be omitted from the Bill, as the omission of it would remove many of the objections entertained by his constituents to the measure.
§ Mr. Carruthers
said, that if the hon. and learned Member would leave out the clause applying to book debts generally, and confine it to book debts for goods sold and delivered, a great objection to the measure would be removed.
said, that the clause to which the hon. Member alluded might still be altered. The measure would be a most valuable one, adding not only to the security of trade, but to the preservation of morality. He had also been intrusted with a petition against the Bill from a body of merchants who had met in the city of London, and after considering the measure clause by clause, they had written to him to say that they would suspend their opinion of the Bill until it had come out of the Committee. He had other petitions, not against the principle, but some of the details of the Bill; the petitioners stating that if it would give the same security to book-debts that it proposed to give to other debts, it would be a most valuable amendment.
§ Sir John Campbell
said, that the clause to which the gallant Member for Westminster had referred was a most important one. It threw on the creditor who swore that a debtor was about to abscond, and who thereupon applied to have him arrested, the burden of proving that fact. That was a most important clause, and he would not consent to withdraw it from the Bill. If it were omitted, every debtor would be at the mercy of any creditor that might choose to arrest him.
§ The petition to be printed.