HC Deb 19 August 1835 vol 30 cc672-5
Mr. O'Connell

rose to present a Petition from Newfoundland, which was most numerously signed, and some of the signatures were highly respectable, complaining of the administration of justice in that country. They complained of the present Chief Justice Bolton, and they stated that in the year 1826, upon the granting of a new charter, there were provisions in that charter directing all rules of Court to be published for three months, and then transmitted for the sanction of the Crown, It appeared that in 1826 the names of the Juries were arranged in alphabetical order, and the jurors were directed to be called consecutively in that order. This was a perfectly fair mode of arranging a Jury, without reference to party politics or religion. This was the case till Judge Bolton was appointed Chief Justice, and his first step was to abolish the former Jury process. The result, as the petitioners complained, was that, instead of having an impartial Jury, the jury-box was now packed to suit particular purposes. They complained that the Chief Justice had come to the Colony a violent religious partisan. Before that time the Roman Catholic had his fuel drawn home for him by the Protestants, and the Catholics at their own expense built a church for the Protestants, so much were they then in amity; but the moment Chief Justice Bolton came there the case was altered, and he set the parties much against each other, and he had put down schools. At one time a paragraph appeared in a newspaper, complaining of a charge of his in a trial for a political libel. In place of proceeding legally, he had the writer brought before him on a charge of contempt of Court; and the Chief Justice, himself being a party, and without a Jury, sentenced him to imprisonment for three months, and a fine of 50l. There were other charges in the petition, but he would not state them as they were not distinct. He would only lay the petition on the Table at present, and he trusted he should not be under the necessity of taking any further steps upon it.

Sir George Grey

could not but regret that such a petition should have been presented. If the allegations of it were true, then there could be no doubt that Mr. Bolton had deviated from the strict path of his duty. With respect to the Juries, he thought Mr. Bolton had acted very properly, for in place of having a list of only eighteen, taken alphabetically, he had instituted a system by which forty-eight names were now taken in the same manner as in this country. With respect to the allegation with regard to the schools, Mr. Bolton, who was now in this country, assured him that all was untrue, because, though he had lent the Judge's chambers for a meeting with respect to them, it was one to which the Catholic Bishop was invited, and had nothing at all sectarian in it. With regard to the allegation of his having acted wrong in the libel case, he (Sir G. Grey) had no doubt that he had acted strictly legally; but the matter had been referred to the Attorney and Solicitor-General in this country, and they reported that though the Judge was strictly legal in his sentence for contempt, yet the practice for many years in the Courts of this country was against him, and the sentence, under their opinion, was remitted.

Mr. Shaw

contended no man could blame Chief Justice Bolton for his regulation regarding Juries, which had met with the approbation of not only his colleagues, but the majority of the Colony. There was at present no religious difference prevailing among the inhabitants of the Colony. Mr. Justice Bolton positively denied ever telling the Jury to place themselves in the condition of the plaintiff; and from the conversations he had with him he considered him to he a man of cool temper, and not likely to be led away by any party excitement. More than that, he had seen some public documents bearing high testimony to the impartiality and ability with which Mr. Bolton discharged his duty; and he thought that an opportunity ought to be given him of stating the circumstances under which he had committed a person for contempt of Court. It was admitted that he had acted legally, and it should be remembered that there was a great difference between the administration of the laws in this country and in a new Colony. It was true that great party spirit did prevail there, insomuch that an editor of one of the newspapers was stopped on the high road, in the middle of the day, and had his ears cut off; but Mr. Bolton did not in any way participate in the causes of this excitement.

Mr. Divett

begged the House to suspend its judgment on the case at present. He had been informed that many of the signatures to these petitions were in the same handwriting. He should merely observe, in conclusion, that the Chief Justice had received an address on leaving the Colony, expressive of the gratification of the inhabitants at the manner in which he had discharged his official duties.

Mr. O'Connell

would only remark that the signatures had been open to the inspection of the Chief Justice's friends for several days. He begged to express his entire satisfaction at the statement of the right hon. Baronet, and he was sure the colonists would learn with great satisfaction the mode in which the case had been treated by his Majesty's Government. With respect to the change in the Jury process, he believed that it was a violation of the charter, and it was necessary to inquire into it. The charge of having acted in his own case had, he was glad to find, met the disapprobation of Government, and had received as severe a censure as could well be inflicted upon any judicial functionary. It had been urged by the hon. Recorder that the Chief Justice was a very cool man, and therefore could not be a party man. Why, he had known men as cool as cucumbers who were violent party and most bigotted men. It was also asserted that the Chief Justice had received an address on leaving the Colony; but probably the praise of one party was the severest censure that could be cast upon the judicial conduct of a Chief Justice, who ought to be independent of all parties.

Petition laid on the Table.

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