§ On the Question that Clause 6 (which provides, "that the Lord-lieutenant shall have power to appoint barristers of not less than five years' standing to revise the lists") should stand part of the Bill,
§ Sir Edmund Hayes
said, he had not yet heard any substantial reason assigned for transferring the duty of registration from the assistant-barristers to revising-barristers appointed by Government. The only one offered was, that it was advisable to separate the political from the judicial functions. That proposition might be most true in the abstract, but he denied that the registration of voters was a political duty. The only point to be ascertained was, whether or not the applicant was in possession of such a qualification as the legislature intended should entitle him to the enjoyment of the elective franchise. For that purpose, all the inquiry necessary was into the nature, extent, and circumstances of his farm, and the rent; but in order to stamp upon this duty the name of "political," it would be necessary that the barrister should be acquainted with the political sentiments not only of the claimant, but also of the candidates for the county or borough to which they belong. In no other point of view could this be thought a political duty; and he would assert, with the utmost confidence, that no such considerations influenced the assistant-barristers. It might be said that the system proposed was similar to the English. It might be; but in England, there were no officers analogous to the assistant-barrister—no machinery existed—and one had, of necessity, to be created. In Scotland, the duty of registration was left in the hands of the Sheriffs of counties—no new set of officers was created. Why, then, in Ireland make an unnecessary change? There of all places, it was most unadvisable to make the change proposed, because the right to vote was much more difficult to ascertain. The qualification was so undefined, and capable of such different construction, that the barristers appointed annually,—(without any departure from their duty,)—might be guided either to restrict or relax the franchise, in accordance with the political complexion of the Government of the day. The decisions of the assistant-barristers were likely to be in accordance with the intention of the Legislature. Experience had proved 764 it in almost every appeal, either to a Jury, or a Committee of that House. Their decisions had been confirmed; whilst all the decisions, with scarcely an exception, which had been reversed, were those of the revising-barristers, appointed under the Reform Act. Look at the scrutiny on the Carlow Election. Almost all of the votes which were declared to be fraudulent and bad were those of men having farms, varying from three to ten acres, paying 20s. to 25s. per acre, and admitted to the register, not by the Chairman of the country, but by the revising-barrister appointed by Government, under the Reform Act. Other cases might be cited to support this view of the subject; but it was unnecessary, the fact was equally important and indisputable. It was desirable that every man fairly entitled to the franchise, according to the intention of the Legislature, should obtain it without difficulty; but it was equally desirable to exclude a class of fictitious voters, little better than those under the old system. For this purpose, it would be better not to take the duty from the assistant-barristers; and, therefore, he should move, as an Amendment, that the 6th Clause be omitted from the Bill.
§ Mr. Sergeant O'Loghlen
could assure the hon. Baronet, that there existed no intention to throw any imputation upon the assistant-barristers. It was the wish of the great majority of the assistant-barristers that they should be relieved from the onerous duties imposed upon them since the passing of the Reform Bill.
§ Mr. Shaw
did not doubt that such was the desire of the assistant-barristers, and it was a very natural one, as well as a strong proof of the absurdity of the charge against them—that they desired to promote particular political interests by their manner of registering. The question was, what course would be most advantageous for the public? Clearly, to retain as revising-barristers, that most estimable body of men, the assistant-barristers, whose station and character placed them above real suspicion; though, from what occurred daily in that House, it was plain that no station or character could save any public functionary in Ireland from the most base and slanderous imputations.
§ Viscount Morpeth
supported the Clause, because the assistant-barristers had quite sufficient duties to perform independently of that from which this Bill would relieve 765 them; and no objection could reasonably be made to the appointment being vested in the Lord-Lieutenant. The Judges had not the appointment of the assistant-barristers and when an appeal was given by the Bill to the Judges, no person could maintain that any slur was intended to be cast on those learned personages.
§ Colonel Perceval
said: The noble Lord must admit, that to give the appointment of the revising-barristers to the Government, was going out of the course adopted in England, and was not carrying out the principle laid down in the preamble of the Bill. In England the Judges appointed the barristers; but it was proposed that in Ireland they should not do so. Why was this to be? Was it because certain persons rose up in that House and attacked the Judges of the land, and most unjustly charged those learned personages with being political partisans? Was it because the Government was obliged to succumb to those hon. Members? Was it for these reasons, he would ask, that the attacks were permitted which, without the apparent sanction of the Government, would have been only worthless and contemptible? The country could not look with confidence to these appointments, unless they rested with the Judges. He therefore objected to the Clause, as being calculated only to please a certain party in that House, and to cast reflections upon the assistant-barristers. He agreed with his hon. Friend, the Member for Donegal, that it would be better to have the Clause omitted. The Clause appeared to him to be a perfect job; placing at the disposal of Government eleven places of 300l. a-year each. He called on the House to look at the registries in Ireland which had been conducted by the revising-barristers, and those which had been conducted by the assistant-barristers. If hon. Members compared the two, they would find that the former were full of objections, while to the latter there were no objections. The Committees of that House had, in every instance, by their decisions, stamped the registry conducted by the registering-barristers as bad. Those Committees which, notwithstanding the unmeasured attacks that had been made upon them in that House—notwithstanding that they had been taxed with perjury,—those Committees, who had looked at the question dispassionately, had, no matter what were the politics of their 766 Members, pronounced it as their solemn opinion, that the registry in Ireland was deluged with fictitious voters, and it was this class of voters which the 9th Clause of this Bill was intended to preserve. The assistant-barristers in Ireland were men of the highest character, and above suspicion: they were, generally speaking, men of standing in the profession, and properly qualified to control the registry. For these reasons he should support the Amendment; and if it were lost, then he should move an Amendment in accordance with the preamble of the Bill, to the effect that the appointment of revising-barristers shall be given to the Judges.
§ Mr. Ronayne
insisted that assistant-barristers in Ireland were influenced by political partialities. Their conduct, indeed, in registering voters was unjust in the extreme, The Act of Parliament made it imperative upon the barrister to call over the list of persons claiming to register, three times. The obvious meaning of that was, that the claimants should have an opportunity of answering to their names. But he knew an instance where an assistant-barrister called the list over three times before eleven o'clock on the first day of the registry, and those who happened not to be present were disfranchised. He should feel it his duty to vote against the Amendment.
§ Mr. Sergeant Jackson
said: The hon. and learned Gentleman who had last addressed the Committee, had brought an unfounded charge of partiality against the assistant-barristers, as well as a most unjust accusation against an individual. The mode prescribed by the Reform Act, with respect to calling over the lists, was the mode adopted in the case the hon. Member had adverted to. The Reform Bill made it imperative on the barrister to go through the registry before he entered upon any other business; and the charge, therefore, of the hon. and learned Member for Clonmel resolved itself into this, that the barrister did not drive a coach-and-six through an Act of Parliament. Nothing could be more impolitic than to register voters whenever they chose to appear; for they would come forward when those who had objections to urge against their claims were absent. He should vote for the Amendment, because he saw no reason why a new machinery should be created when competent machinery already existed. The Solicitor-General for Ireland 767 seemed to suppose that the assistant-barristers had not time to do the duty. They were the paid servants of the public, and were bound to devote their time to the public. If an assistant-barrister could not spare time, let him resign his office, and another would be easily got to do his duty. If revising-barristers were to be appointed, the noble Lord (Morpeth) must, of course, make the appointments on the suggestion of some person, and it required not the spirit of divination to point out who that person would be. It was clear that the revising-barristers would, in fact, be the friends and partisans of the administration which appointed them.
thought the hon. and learned Gentleman had said more in favour of the Clause, as it now stood, than against it. It was surely better that each man should have his own particular business assigned him, than that he should be required to be a Jack-of-all-trades, which would be the effect of the Amendment.
§ Mr. More O'Ferrall
said it was impossible that the assistant-barristers should perform the duties prescribed by the Bill, and therefore it was necessary that revising-barristers should be appointed. He could corroborate the statement made by the hon. Member for Clonmel, as to the mode adopted by the assistant-barristers in calling over the lists. In his own country he had known freeholders who had to proceed fifteen miles to the place where the registry was conducted, and on their arrival they found the list had been called over, and they were therefore obliged to return fifteen miles more without being registered. It was plain that the assistant-barristers could not perform the duty of registry consistently with the due performance of their other duties; and, therefore, the question the House had to decide was, whether they would vest the appointment of the revising-barristers in the Judges or the Government. In his opinion it would be preferable to vest the appointment in the Crown.
said, the Clause was a most useful one, and the Bill could not go on without it. If the nomination of the barristers were given to the Judges, and the appeal from the decisions of the barristers likewise to the Judges, the Judge would be placed in this ludicrous position,—first, the Judge was to appoint the barrister on the score of his abilities; and then the Judge was to decide against him, 768 because he was a blockhead. It was denied by Members on the other side of the House, that the Judges were political partisans; but was there, he would ask, no such thing as favouritism in the Irish Courts? He recollected three Chief Barons in Ireland. He knew the son of one of them. Out of seventy-four cases that were to be tried, this son held seventy briefs. Well, that Chief Baron died; and the next term his son did not hold a single brief. And the House, after the statement of this fact, was to be told that there was no favouritism in the Irish Courts. The Chief Baron to whom he had alluded was succeeded by another, and his son was in full business, so long as his father remained on the Bench. But his father left the Bench, and the year following his son dwindled into a private country gentleman, all his business having left him the moment his father retired. Did not the Irish Judges, he would ask, allow their sons-in-law to become politicians, and had not this an injurious effect upon the suitors in their Courts? He would instance a case. At the last election for Dublin, an attorney came to him and said that he was most anxious to vote for him, but he feared if he did so, it would injure his client, who had a cause to be heard by the Judge whose son-in-law was a candidate. The Irish Judges, too, were politicians. In England he never heard of an instance of the Judges going down to vote at contested elections, but in Ireland they went most ostentatiously. With respect to assistant-barristers being men of great business, the fact was not so. The appointment was usually looked to as a sort of termination to their labours, and he hoped that before long they would be prevented from practising at all. The country attorneys soon found out that no name looked so well at the foot of a declaration as that of the assistant-barrister of the county. He objected to the assistant-barristers being removable at pleasure. They ought to hold their offices during good behaviour, and ought not to be confined to one particular county. He would prefer to have them ambulatory; for whenever they remained long in one county, they became tied up with the gentry, and were looked upon with suspicion by the people. He had presented a petition against one of those assistant-barristers a few days since, detailing some circumstances which, upon investigation, might not, perhaps, prove the barrister to 769 have acted wrongly; but all he now contended for was, that the assistant-barristers did not give satisfaction. He would recommend that the barristers should not go the same Circuit twice in succession.
§ Mr. Vesey
rose to defend the conduct of the assistant-barristers in Ireland. It was his conviction, notwithstanding the attack made upon them by the hon. and learned Member for Dublin, that they had always given their decisions in the most impartial manner. Never having heard any specific charge brought forward against any of the assistant-barristers, with the exception of the one which had just been made, and which he hoped had been proved to be totally and completely futile; and believing that they had most conscientiously, impartially, and efficiently discharged their duties as revising-barristers,—and thinking that the revision of the registry could not by any possibility be placed in better hands than theirs,—he would give his cordial support to the Amendment proposed by his hon. Friend.
§ Mr. Shaw
Felt real pain at the necessity cast upon him in consequence of the gratuitous and undistinguishing slander of all those in authority in Ireland, poured forth, as usual, by the hon. and learned Member (Mr. O'Connell), to interrupt the detail of business,—which he had hoped the House would have been allowed to attend to in Committee, by making some reply to the charge. How plainly did such conduct of the hon. and learned Gentleman prove, that to remove from the assistant-barristers the duty of the revision of voters, which he (Mr. Shaw) was anxious to retain in their hands, would fail altogether to prevent the imputations which were so unsparingly, and without the slightest regard to facts, heaped upon the highest and most distinguished of the superior Judges—men who, in truth, were above all suspicion in their character and conduct; but not a whit the securer on that account from the virulent attacks of the hon. and learned Member. To be sure, Judges in Ireland, as well as elsewhere, must have sons and sons-in-law; and, were they to be debarred from being candidates for Parliament, or shut out from any other just object of ambition; or, to have such gross and disgusting charges made against any Judge connected with them? The Judge alluded to by the hon. Member, in his insinuation as to the Dublin election, was 770 one of the most incorruptible men that ever adorned a public station. He was glad the hon. Member had not named the attorney who, he said, suspected—forsooth!—that that Judge would be influenced in his judicial decision by the fact of his son-in-law being a candidate for a seat in this House, because he (Mr. Shaw) not knowing who that attorney was, could now say, without the possibility of intending personal offence, that he must have a low and vulgar mind and be a disgrace to his profession. Assistant-barristers were not virtually, though in strictness they might be, removeable at pleasure; and the unprincipled attacks to which all men in judicial office in Ireland were subject rendered it the more necessary that they should possess character and station sufficient to repel such attacks in the minds of all reasonable and well-thinking men. He greatly objected to the power of registration being vested in the mere occasional appointees of the government. The public generally—let the hon. and learned member (Mr. O'Connell) reproach them as he pleased—knew how to appreciate the assistant-barristers of Ireland. He for one hoped they would not be made ambulatory for he was sure their character did not require it, on the ground suggested by the hon. Gentleman and he thought it would impair their usefulness, and prevent the possibility of their courts being as well regulated as they now were. The hon. and learned Gentleman asked if he was more a political partizan in denouncing the Judges than Gentlemen on the other side of the House were in defending them? He said the cases bore no parallel; but he would suppose that the present Attorney-General for Ireland, or the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite, the Solicitor-General, were, as it was very likely they soon would be, raised to the bench. They were undoubtedly much greater political partizans, in the fair sense of the term, than any Judge now on the Irish bench ever had been. Yet he should blush to think there was any Member on his side of the House who could so far forget all that was due to truth or decency as to speak of those hon. Members as the hon. Gentleman (Mr. O'Connell) had spoken of the present Irish Judges. Such conduct was degrading to them all as Irishmen and it must tend to bring disrespect upon all the constituted authorities in Ireland.
§ Viscount Morpeth
feared that if he acceded to the proposition of making the appointment of the revising-barristers permanent, he would render himself liable to the charge of monopolising patronage. As the Clause stood, it left it in the power of succeeding administrations to appoint the revising barristers if it should deem fit.
§ Mr. Sergeant O'Loghlen
contended that the crown ought to have the appointment, and quoted from a speech made by Sir R. Peel in 1829, to show that the right hon. Baronet had at that period contended for the same principle.
§ Mr. Fitzstephen French
wished to know the reason of five years being introduced, as the necessary standing of a barrister to be appointed under this act; in England no time was required—a revising barrister might be appointed the day after he was called to the bar; and in Ireland, whenever it had been deemed expedient, to demand a qualification of a certain number of years standing, six had been the number always required; it had been so for the barristers appointed to register under the Reform Bill—it was so for the assistant-barristers, and indeed all other legal appointments.
§ The Committee divided on the Amendment: Ayes 15; Noes 49; Majority 34.
§ The Clause was agreed to.
§ On Clause 9,
§ Colonel Perceval
said his objections to this Clause were rather increased than diminished, since he last addressed the House upon the subject. It was his intention to move such Amendments in the Clause, as would cure the defects in the present fictitious registries of Ireland. He thought all the registries should be reopened before the registering-barristers.
§ Mr. Sergeant O'Loghlen
objected to opening the registry generally in Ireland. This would put all the voters in Ireland to very unnecessary trouble and expense, which ought to be avoided, if possible. There might be, and he had no doubt there were persons improperly placed on the registry; but then, it must be remembered, that there were as many for one party as another—and, in his opinion, neither party would gain by a general revision. Balancing the inconveniences that would arise on both sides, he was of opinion that it would be better to leave the matter as it was.
said, that having expressed an opinion yesterday that it was 772 better to open the registries generally, and having changed his opinion since, he thought it but fair to state his reasons for the change. He was now of opinion, that all voters on the registry had a vested legal right to continue there. They had a vested right for eight years. Under these circumstances, and out of respect for the vested rights of the voters, which ought not to be lightly taken away, he should vote for the Clause as it stood.
§ Mr. Shaw
had been greatly surprised the night before at the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. O'Connell) agreeing in the objection—the very first objection made to this Clause—that its effect would be to render valid all the fraudulent voters which had been improperly admitted on the registry in Ireland—and he did not wonder that the hon. Gentleman had since changed his mind. The impression in Ireland was, that this was the real motive of those who urged the present Bill, and he (Mr. Shaw) should suspect it, if they refused to make the obviously fair Amendment in this Clause which he meant to propose, It was not to open all the registries, but merely to apply the very principle of the Bill itself, as admitted by its supporters. That principle was, to give an appeal from the revising barristers to the judge, both in the case of improper admission and rejection, and to let that be final. He did not object to that principle, but he required that it should be applied as well to votes that had been as those that might be hereafter improperly admitted, and he asked, in common justice, that there should be a power in the case of all votes which had been already improperly admitted, to appeal to the Judge before they were permanently fixed on the registry. The right hon. Member moved an Amendment to the effect of his speech.
§ Viscount Morpeth
If it were considered inexpedient to open the registry generally, he saw no reason why he should comply with the modified proposition of the right hon. Gentleman. By the Bill the House shut out an appeal to the House of Commons.
§ Mr. Sergeant Jackson
said, that it appeared to him that the noble Lord was not taking a common sense view of the Amendment proposed by his right hon. Friend (Mr. Shaw). It was agreed on all hands that a number of persons had been improperly placed on the registry, and the question was, were they to be permitted to 773 remain? The Solicitor-General for Ireland bad stated a debit and credit account, and had come to the conclusion that both parties were alike in that respect; but he imagined that the learned Member for Dublin took a different view of the subject; and although he founded his change of opinion upon his respect for vested rights, he thought it might be attributed to the fact of the hon. and learned Member having ascertained that a much greater number of his supporters had been improperly registered than of his opponents. He called upon the House to adopt the proposition of his right hon. Friend, and to follow out the avowed principle of the Bill, and purge the registry from the fictitious votes that had been improperly placed upon it.
§ Mr. Dominick Browne
said, he did not often agree with the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Shaw), but he thought the suggestion made by him was founded in justice, and ought to be acceded to. He thought it unfair to shut out an appeal to the House of Commons against those who had been improperly registered for the last three years, without giving an appeal somewhere. He could state, of his own knowledge, having been Chairman of the county Galway Election Committee, that voters to a great extent had been fraudulently made—and he instanced some cases in his own county of a similar nature.
§ Mr. Fitzstephen French
was not a little surprised at the change of opinion in the right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite; still more so, at that of the hon. Member for Dublin, who had yesterday so forcibly spoken against that Clause, and whose great experience in matters of this sort would, he thought, have prevented his adopting an opinion to be in a few hours so hastily abandoned. The only argument made use of was, that this power of appeal might be vexatiously used; but if Gentlemen would turn to the 13th section, they would see that was provided against by the power vested in the barrister—of giving costs to the amount of forty shillings. Really, from what had fallen from the right hon. the Solicitor-General (for Ireland) the evening before, when Members on both sides of the House were unanimous in calling for an alteration of this Clause, he supposed that the hon. and learned Gentleman had risen for the purpose of moving the omission of the words which had been so universally condemned; for his own part, he had no hesitation in 774 stating his opinion remained unaltered, that the objection to voters ought not, as was proposed, be confined to matters which had occurred since this registry, but ought to be open, that the question of value, if objected to, should be examined into and finally decided on—that that decision should be conclusive—that a petition should not be allowed against the qualification of some votes, while the registry was conclusive as to the qualification of the rest—in fine, that the expense and uncertainty of Committees of that House should be got rid of for ever. The effect of the Clause as it now stood, was to do away with the power of questioning the value, at the expiration of five years, from the registration of the present voters, which at present existed, as they might be opposed in value on their claiming to register, and to perpetuate, at least for their lives, such persons now on the poll who had been improperly registered. This, he considered, was not desirable for either party, no matter what their politics might be, nor was it consistent with the principles of justice; and he trusted that the Government would not any longer oppose the Amendment.
§ Mr. Jephson
agreed with his right hon. Friend (Mr. Shaw) as to the necessity of revising the registry. He knew it as a fact that persons who had been watched at one Sessions, for the purpose of having their claims objected to—had gone to another Sessions forty miles off, and got registered. In his opinion, the effect of the present Clause would be not merely to perpetuate those fictitious voters for five years, but for the lives of the parties. He would appeal to the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Callaghan) if it were not the fact that a number of persons in Cork had been registered as ten-pound voters whose houses had only been valued at five pounds. He did not wish by any means to harass the voters, but he thought justice demanded that the registries should be purified.
§ Mr. Callaghan
hoped that the noble Lord (Morpeth) would not give way on the present Question, as he was convinced that if a revision of the registry were granted, there would be no termination to it. A bar of lawyers would be employed to object to every voter, and, on the whole, the investigation would be one of the most vexatious nature. The registry for Cork, under the Reform Bill, lasted for 775 thirty days. Barristers and attorneys, amounting to twenty persons, were employed by the Conservatives, and paid out of the Conservative fund, to throw every impediment in the way of those who came to register on the liberal side. The same staff was still kept up, and would be similarly employed if the proposed alteration in the Clause were agreed to. As the hon. Member for Mallow had appealed to him, he must say that he did not believe any such cases existed as those referred to. He (Mr. Callaghan) knew it was the fashion to say that there were a great many bad voters in the registries. He (Mr. Callaghan) was not one of those who pretended to say that there were not some, but he had no doubt they were very few. A list of 11,000 bad votes was given in before the Committee who tried the merits of the Cork Election Petition, and out of this list the then sitting Members were only able to bring forward five cases, and only established two. He, therefore, thought he was entitled to belief, when he stated that the number of bad votes placed in the registry in Cork were very few indeed. He was perfectly satisfied that if the Amendment were carried, the registries in Cork would not be concluded for six months. He considered the double appeal, as it was proposed to give, would be fraught with the greatest possible inconvenience, unless proper care were taken to guard against frivolous objections being raised by parties not personally interested. Lord Spencer, in introducing the Reform Bill, said, that no individual was sufficiently interested in another person's being registered, as not to warrant him in preferring an objection. The case was different, however, where an individual was refused his franchise, and where that person considered himself aggrieved by such refusal, an appeal was granted. If an appeal should now be granted both ways, a pauper freeman would easily be found to object, and the parties would then have to go before a judge; and, therefore, he thought security ought to be required for the costs, in the event of the objection turning out to be frivolous. On the whole, he thought the tendency of the Amendment would be, unnecessarily to harass the voter; and sure he was, that it would cause the cry for universal suffrage to be greater than ever.
§ Mr. Sergeant Jackson
possessed some 776 information with respect to Cork, and would beg to ask the hon. Member whether there was not a Local Act which exempted from taxation all houses rated at and under five pounds. Now, he believed that there were a number of persons upon the registry who had petitioned the Grand Jury to exempt them from taxation, notwithstanding that they had registered as ten-pound householders. These facts he was ready to prove at the Bar.
§ Mr. Callaghan
said, it was quite true that all houses rated, under the private Act alluded to at 5l., were exempted from local taxation; but then the mode in which the valuation was made ought to be generally known. It was no usual thing to rate a house that was really worth 100l. a-year at 50l. The two things were, therefore, quite compatible—namely, that a man might not be rated to pay taxes, and yet have a house worth 12l. or 15l. a-year. It might be true, as stated by the hon. and learned Member for Bandon, that persons who had registered as ten-pound householders had memorialized the Grand Jury to remit the taxes. A desire to get off taxes could not be a just foundation for stating that the person did not possess a sufficient qualification to entitle him to be registered. He must be permitted to bear testimony to the fairness with which the barristers conducted the Cork registry. They did not grant the franchise to any man merely on his own swearing. They examined his neighbours, and did not register him until a minute investigation had taken place. The Corporation employed persons, and paid them to swear that the voters did not possess a proper qualification; but the barristers very properly refused to take the swearing of men as evidence who had been paid for the purpose.
§ The Clause agreed to.
§ The Clauses to the 30th were agreed to. The House resumed; Committee to sit again.