§ The Attorney-General,
in moving for leave to bring in a Bill to Improve the Administration of Justice in Ecclesiastical Courts, said, that he did not propose occupying the attention of the House at any very great length in introducing the Bill which he proposed to submit to their consideration; but as this was one of the subjects alluded to in his Majesty's most gracious Speech from the Throne, he thought it would be unbecoming in him if he did not state, as shortly as he could, the general object and scope of the Bill which he meant to offer for their adoption. The leading object of it was to consolidate some 300 or 400 courts which were dispersed all over the country, and which were incompetent to perform those functions of justice which had been assigned to them, and concentrate the jurisdiction in Ecclesiastical matters in one court, to sit either in London or wherever his Majesty should be pleased to appoint. It was also intended by the Measure to invest the new Ecclesiastical 909 Court with additional powers, in order that there might be a more effectual administration of justice in Ecclesiastical matters which came under its cognizance; while its jurisdiction over certain other matters which had been made the subject of complaint more than once since the House met would be entirely removed. The Court of Appeal which an hon. Member had alluded to, and which formerly was known as the Court of Delegates, was already abolished, and its authority transferred to the Privy Council—it was proposed that the Privy Council should be also the Court of Appeal from this new Court. The effect of this alteration would be the bringing into one system, and under one arrangement of rules, a variety of important jurisdictions now exercised in point of practice by eight or ten different courts, and capable of being exercised by no less than between 300 and 400. Before detailing sonic parts of the Bill, he begged leave to state to the House the origin of the measure and the share he had in its introduction. In January, 1830, a Commission was appointed (subsequently renewed on the demise of the Crown, in the month of July the same year) for the purpose of investigating the Ecclesiastical Courts, and the Report was made in the month of February, 1832. A more learned and valuable document than the Report of the Commissioners which he now held in his hand, he had rarely met with, to the composition of which the hon. and learned Member for the Tower Hamlets, he believed, had very much contributed. The Report contained many most valuable suggestions, and having, in part, subsequently received the sanction of a Committee of the House of Commons, a bill was prepared, with considerable care, in the latter part of last year, which be believed received the sanction of nearly every one who had been consulted on the subject—among others, of the hon. and learned Members for Edinburgh and the Tower Hamlets; the latter of whom, though he had his professional interest to consult, hesitated not in confirming the opinion that if such a measure were adopted it would be the means of conferring general benefit on the community. It embraced a great variety of particulars, but he proposed calling the attention of the House merely to two, one relating to the Ecclesiastical Court, and the other, by and by, to the Discipline of the Clergy; those sub- 910 jects being of prominent importance and pressing necessity. It was quite obvious that the existence of so many different tribunals, amounting, as he had stated, to nearly 400, and embracing diocesan and archidiaconal courts, peculiars of various descriptions, and some manorial courts, must lead to considerable inconveniences, possibly to conflicting decisions, and, in many instances, it was almost impossible that there could be an adequate judge, so that practically a denial of justice was, in many instances, the inevitable result. It was proposed by this Bill to consolidate into one court all those separate tribunals, and prevent in future any one of them entertaining any contentious jurisdiction whatever. It was also proposed to limit the new court to certain matters which were considered of sufficient importance to occupy its entire attention, and transfer to the ordinary courts of law others which had been hitherto investigated in Ecclesiastical Courts. The most important matters with which the Ecclesiastical Courts hitherto had jurisdiction related to testamentary and matrimonial causes, which it was proposed they should still retain; but of all jurisdiction as to tithes and other subjects enumerated by the learned authors of the report as civil and spiritual it was proposed to deprive them. They would also be prevented from intermeddling in those offences which belonged to the clergy—neglect of duty, statements of opinion not in accordance with the doctrines of the Church of England, and questions touching the relaxation of discipline, to be provided for by a separate bill; while all cases of defamation, brawling, laying violent hands in the Church or precincts of the church, and immoralities to which he would not particularly allude, might very well be left to the law as it now stood in the ordinary criminal courts of the country. Except for the purpose of producing nullity of marriage, for adultery, and incest, questions of that nature would also be withdrawn from the Ecclesiastical Courts. Such were the principal objects the bill had in view; but there was another important feature in it which he was anxious to state to the House. He alluded to the power of directing an issue, in order that a disputed question of fact might be settled in that most convenient and most constitutional of all methods—namely, Trial by Jury. It was proposed that the judge of the Ecclesiastical Court 911 should have the power of sending an issue to be tried, in the same manner as the judges of the Courts of Equity were in the habit of doing when a question turned on matters of fact. There would also be an appeal from the Court to the Privy Council on the granting or refusing an issue on a new trial, which he hoped would operate as a sufficient check, and be satisfactory to the public. The Ecclesiastical Court, it should be remembered, had to deal with some of the most important and complicated rights and an immense proportion of the wealth of England—all matters testamentary and all property passing by will, it was, therefore, necessary, in order to its due administration of that branch of justice that it should be invested with sufficient powers, by calling in the aid of that important machine in investigating truth, Trial by Jury, the right of appeal, and at the same time that its powers were enlarged, to disencumber it from inquiries into a variety of criminal matters which had hitherto tended only to embarrass and perplex its operation. It was to be in future the King's Court, not the Court of any Archbishop or spiritual person whatever, and was to be held under the same rules and regulations to which the other learned judges were subject. The Measure was not peculiarly his, having been called on in his official capacity to take up the question and introduce it to the House. But, having diligently read the Report, in which he found much learning, great labour, considerable judgment, and extensive elucidation of important questions connected with the subject, he was not unwilling to avail himself of the suggestions which it contained, as he should always be ready to support any practical measures of improvement or reform, whether proceeding from that (the Ministerial) or the other side of the House, for no Member, whether lay or legal, could be more anxious than he was to improve the institutions of the country by properly-considered and well-defined measures of practical reform. The hon. and learned Gentleman concluded by moving for leave to bring in the Bill.
said, that there was a portion of the Report of the Commissioners which, if not adopted in the Bill of the hon. and learned Gentleman, or made the subject of a distinct measure, would defeat all that the Bill before the House proposed to do. It was that part of the Report which contained the recommendation of 912 the Commissioners to abolish all the sinecure offices so numerous in connexion with the Ecclesiastical Courts. Not less than 60,000l. were divided in this way between the protegés of Bishops and Archbishops. Unless that source of patronage were lopped off the measure would give no satisfaction to the country. One of the highest Ecclesiastical personages in the kingdom, the Archbishop of Canterbury, had, on his (Dr. Lushington's) proposition as a Member of that Commission, relinquished at once patronage enjoyed by himself and his predecessors to the extent of 10,000l. a-year, spread over many sinecure offices. One was of considerable value, seven or eight varied from 1,500l. to 500l. a-year, all of which his predecessors had retained, other persons performing the duty, and they themselves taking the greater share of the emoluments. Within the short space of ten minutes his Grace replied—" It is so proper and just that I cannot hesitate an instant." In the same spirit every individual of the right reverend bench forming a portion of the Commission relinquished his patronage for the public good. He (Dr. Lushington) hoped that the same spirit would actuate the House when they came to consider the details of the Bill, and that they would unhesitatingly remove these overflowing sources of obloquy and public complaint. With respect to the measure of the Attorney-General, he (Dr. Lushington) felt bound to say, such was his sense of its imperative necessity, that he was only restrained from introducing one of the same nature by a knowledge of the fact that it would come with greater weight from the Government, and be more operative in its general effects on the Legislature. The preceding Government were undoubtedly very anxious about the matter; but they had not had time to mature it sufficiently. No blame could, therefore, attach to them for having delayed the production of a measure analogous to the present. He was rejoiced to find, that one of the provisions of the Bill took such offences as that of defamation out of the hands of the Ecclesiastical Courts. It was only in the month of May last that he had himself been compelled, in the discharge of his duty, to send an individual to gaol for defamation. He had no option, consistently with a due observance of his oath, but to act in the manner which he had mentioned. He sent the man there, and there he was at present, and there he 913 might remain, for he knew not of any law by which he could be released. This was only one of many instances which illustrated the worst species of trials for defamation. He could not but attribute guilt to the Legislature for not having at an earlier period instituted inquiries into this subject, and for not having relieved Judges from a duty so odious, as that of punishing men pro salute animœ. The object of the report most especially was, the entire extinction of what used to be called the criminal jurisdiction of the Ecclesiastical Courts; that was to say, that hereafter no Ecclesiastical Court should exercise the power of punishing any person upon a criminal process. Another branch of the jurisdiction of the Court was that exercised over clergymen. This ought likewise to be taken away, and yet it was impossible that such a power of supervision should be extinct, and it therefore ought to be transferred to another jurisdiction, for which a separate Bill would provide, according to the recommendation of the Commission. This Court would take cognizance of all offences committed by clergymen in the neglect of the discharge of their duty; but it would not, in the slightest degree, interfere with the present jurisdiction of the Courts of Common Law in any other offences that the clergy might commit. The instituting of this new Court would be for the purpose of establishing a fair, impartial, and not expensive tribunal, for the purpose of correcting in time all improprieties and neglects in the ministers of religion, and of correcting them, not at a period when public scandal had been so excited, that the Bishops themselves, as had been the case in many instances, had been compelled to take the duty of correction upon them, and at their own expense, amounting in some instances to hundreds of pounds. The establishment of this jurisdiction would confirm more strongly the affections which still remained in the people of this country for the Established Church. All that would remain for the present Ecclesiastical Courts to perform, after the present Bill should have passed, would be the determination upon matrimonial and testamentary causes. These were causes, unquestionably, of very great importance, and no man who sat in that House, or who was not in that House, could feel but the deepest interest in the reform of the Courts which had to administer justice in such cases. Inde- 914 pendent of the importance attached to the separation of husband and wife, the question of nullity of marriage involved the question of legitimacy, and the question of legitimacy involved the rights of property to an immense amount. With respect to testimentary causes, in his humble judgment, if the House did its duty to the public there ought not to remain any difference of law with respect to decisions upon the devising of real and personal property. He never had been satisfied that it was for the interest of the public that the disposing of real and personal property should be tried by a Jury in one case, and by another species of tribunal in another. The expenses of a double trial were not justified. The measure now introduced, when it came to be duly considered, would make every man of opinion that a more important Bill of Reform had never yet been suggested to the House. It was a measure which every Member would find to involve his own interests, and he cordially thanked his hon. and learned Friend, his Majesty's Attorney-General, for having availed himself of the earliest opportunity of bringing the measure forward.
§ Sir John Campbell
rose to express his entire concurrence in the views which had been taken of the subject by his Majesty's Attorney-General, and by his hon. and learned Friend, the Member for the Tower Hamlets. The moment the Report of the Commission had been presented, he had read it with the utmost satisfaction. The public were deeply indebted to the hon. and learned Member for the Tower Hamlets, and very great credit was due to the right Reverend Prelates, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, and the Bishops of London and Durham, and the other Members of the right Reverend Bench, who had concurred under the Commission in recommending the Reform of all the abuses which had so disgraced the law of England, and who, for this object, had voluntarily consented to part with very valuable patronage. The criminal jurisdiction of the Ecclesiastical Courts ought long ago to have been abolished. Their proceedings pro salute animœ, were really for the sole purpose of putting fees into the pockets of the officers of the Courts. All persons knew, that the great obstacles to all improvement in this country were fees and patronage. The officers now had fixed salaries, and, therefore, they were as willing as other people to see abuses 915 corrected. He was glad, that the Bill would abolish between three and four hundred Ecclesiastical Local Courts, for these were Courts purely mischievous. They created great expense, and great confusion. His hon. and learned Friend had said, that he intended to bring forward a measure for the administration of local justice throughout the country. He would beseech him not to abolish the jurisdiction of the Diocesan Courts. Let all the Peculiar and Manorial Courts be abolished; but it would facilitate the business of the country, if the probate of wills were to be allowed to remain with the Diocesan Courts. It was possible to centralize too much—to bring proceedings too much to London; and there would be an inconsistency in his hon. and learned Friend, the Attorney-General, bringing in two Bills, the one to create Local Courts for the trial of civil causes, and another for sweeping away all Local Courts, which took cognisance of Ecclesiastical cases. His hon. and learned Friend would find, that in this particular, he would give umbrage to the country solicitors, a very powerful body, who would be sending numerous petitions on the subject to the House, and who would be able to induce many country Gentlemen to vote against the Reforms altogether. There was a manifest hardship in compelling persons from distant parts to come to London to prove a will. Another point was, whether the supreme Courts ought not to have the power of dissolving marriages? Dissolutions of marriage ought to be tried before judicial tribunals, and not before the Legislature. It was a disgrace to the House of Commons, and to the House of Lords, and to the whole country, that whilst marriages by the law of the land were indissoluble, they could be dissolved by prerogative. When the case of a divorce Bill was before either House, and witnesses were examined at the Bar, the whole proceeding was a mere farce—a most expensive farce, it was true—but a farce that brought no credit at all to any party. He knew not why, in this country, as well as in Scotland, and the other countries in Europe, all such matters should not be brought before a judicial tribunal. These were judicial questions and not legislative, and judicial tribunals ought to have the power to grant divorces, both a mensa et thoro, et a vinculo matrimonii.
§ Dr. Nicholl
was convinced, that the 916 country could not be satisfied if the decisions of such important cases as matrimonial divorces should be left to the decision of one single Judge. He would rather that such decisions should be left to a Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, which was a very important tribunal. He was attached, by early prepossessions, to the Court of Doctors' Commons, and he could not bring himself to consider the decision of one single Judge in such cases as satisfactory. With respect to the Diocesan Courts, he would not enter into the subject; but he was sure the hon. and learned Member for the Tower Hamlets would bear him out in saying, that the maintenance of those Courts would be perfectly impracticable if the present Bill were to pass. He begged to remind the House, that the Bill contained a provision for issuing a Commission to empower Courts in the country to grant probates of wills of small amount. He thought that this provision was amply sufficient for all purposes. He hoped, however, that some provision would be made for the distribution of copies of wills throughout the country; that would confer great benefit upon the public.
would not oppose the introduction of the Bill, but he was still not disposed to assent to all its intended provisions. It was by no means shown that the remedy which was to be provided against the inconveniences of the present system consisted in the abolition of all the Ecclesiastical Courts, and the establishment of a single tribunal in London. Such a plan might be very convenient for the adjudication of large testamentary causes—in other words, for the interests of the rich; but in cases involving property to smaller amounts, the effect of it would be different. In respect to that part of the subject which related to divorce, the existing law certainly required alteration; there was, indeed, at present one law for the rich, and another for the poor. But that would be still more the case if the jurisdiction over cases of this kind were confined to one central court. He contended, therefore, that it would tend to reform the several courts in the different provinces. These objections of his applied to the principle of the present measure, and could not, he feared, be removed by any alteration in its details.
§ Mr. Cutler Fergusson
bore testimony to the zeal of the right reverend Prelates 917 who formed part of the Commission on whose report the present measures were founded, in removing abuses, and to their willingness to sacrifice their own time and their own interests for the sake of furthering that end. He did not think that it would be safe to leave testamentary causes, involving, as they often did, questions of the inheritance of land, to the decision of Local Courts; in his opinion, the tribunals which adjudicated such matters ought to be of the highest importance and character. As to the subject of divorce, it was, in his opinion, of the greatest importance that some change should be made in the existing laws upon it. He thought that the scandal of a Parliamentary divorce—the necessity of applying first to a Court of Law, and then to that House, where such causes were made matter of jest and merriment, and then again to the House of Lords—was a disgrace to the country; but still he was unwilling to invest courts of inferior jurisdiction with the decision of cases of such importance. He hoped, however, that the hon. and learned Gentleman and his Majesty's Government would turn their attention to the subject.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
said, I trust, that this House will receive the present measure as the first practical fulfilment of the pledges given in his Majesty's Speech from the Throne, that his Majesty's Ministers were desirous of introducing into the administration of the law the most substantial Reforms, and of redressing every grievance, of which just complaint can be made. I do hope, that it was some kind of prognostication of the nature of those Reforms, which convinced the hon. Member for Middlesex, that it was not necessary to hold over his Majesty's Ministers the menace of limited Supplies. The hon. Member will see in the strong and uniform testimony borne to the efficacy of this Reform, a guarantee of the intention of his Majesty's Ministers, with respect to Reforms in general. This Reform in the Ecclesiastical Courts throughout the kingdom, is founded on the Report of a Commission of Inquiry, established upon the advice given by his Grace the Duke of Wellington, to the Crown. Nothing can be further from my intention, than to claim for his Majesty's Ministers the exclusive merit of this Reform. Few things are more honourable to party connexions in this country, than the manifestation on the part of public men of a 918 willingness to co-operate in measures of Reform, that are complete and well calculated to promote the public welfare. The hon. and learned Member, who spoke last, has, with a modesty and forbearance, most creditable to himself, concealed the fact, that he was one whose co-operation had been of such signal utility to the inquiries of the Commission. The hon. and learned Gentleman, and the hon. and learned Member for the Tower Hamlets, notwithstanding their total alienation from that political party, by which this Commission was instituted, were not unwilling to tender their gratuitous and invaluable services to forward all the purposes of the Commission. I do say, that such conduct redounds much to the honour of the hon. and learned Member; and that it redounds generally to the honour of Gentlemen, who, notwithstanding all their differences in party politics from the Government of the day, were the first to tender their services to perfect the laws of the country. A grateful testimony has likewise been borne to the dignified Ecclesiastics, and to the Clergy throughout the country, who were willing to sacrifice their private patronage, and to cast aside all personal interests, in order to benefit the country by promoting the objects of the Commission. I find this conduct has been invariable on the part of the right Reverend Prelates, notwithstanding the attacks that I see have been made on them in other quarters. Yes, Sir, uniformly have they evinced the same disposition to sacrifice every private consideration, in order to further the progress of useful Reform. As soon as his Majesty's Commission was established, the first offer made by every Member of that Commission, whether Ecclesiastical or Lay, was to suspend every appointment to Ecclesiastical preferments which had not attached to them a cure of souls until the Report of the Commissioners should decide upon the utility or inutility of filling up the places. Such has been the conduct of the Archbishop of Canterbury, of the Archbishop of York, and of the Bishops of London, of Lincoln, of Gloucester, and of the Lord Chancellor. All signified to the Commission, that not one of them would make any appointment to any Ecclesiastical preferment whatever, till the circumstances of the preferment had undergone the consideration of the Commission, and until it had been determined in what manner the 919 preferment could be made most beneficial to the interests of the Church. With respect to the particular measure before the House, I go further, much further, than some of those hon. Gentlemen who claim to themselves the title of Reformers. The hon. Gentleman, the Member for Cambridge, advises that the Local Ecclesiastical Courts should be continued in existence, while the whole object of the present Bill is to put an end to these local Courts. Another hon. and learned Member (Sir J. Campbell) has said that the Diocesan Courts should be continued, lest the country attorneys might petition the House, and oppose the Bill, through the medium of country Gentlemen, whom they may be able to influence. Why, Sir, I am a greater Reformer, than even his Majesty's late Attorney-General. If the local jurisdiction be good, maintain it; if bad, for God's sake, dont let us permit local attorneys, for their private and personal interests, to obstruct the course of Reform. If the country attorneys have any vested rights, any vested interests, in the maintenance of these Courts, let us compensate them; but if it be useful, if it be for the benefit of the country at large, that Central Courts shall be established, and that Local Courts be abolished, what grounds have country solicitors to obstruct the course of Reform? I know that the country solicitors are a powerful body; but if the present measure be right, if centralisation be more advantageous to the country than the continuance of local jurisdiction, I see no earthly reason, why the power of the country solicitors should impede the progress of Reform. I am one of those who think that the jurisdiction of Parliament ought to be trusted and relied upon. Most undoubtedly, no one can witness, with any degree of satisfaction, the examination of witnesses at the Bar of this House, on occasions of such a nature; but still, I think, that such a proceeding is not without an indirect effect upon the public mind and morals. I am not of opinion, that an easy mode of obtaining divorce would be attended with much advantage, nor am I that great admirer of the Scotch system, in this respect, that some hon. Members profess to be. I very much doubt, indeed, that it would be at all for the public benefit that Local Courts should have the jurisdiction of granting divorce a mensa et thoro. Such facilities would not be unlikely to lead to much 920 collusion, particularly where females were concerned. The greatest confidence should exist in any tribunal possessing a jurisdiction of this nature, and too much care cannot be taken in the establishment of such a Court. I should be doing great injustice to Sir John Nicholl, and Sir Herbert Jenner, if I did not take this occasion to acknowledge the prompt, willing, and efficient assistance I derived from those learned and distinguished civilians, as members of the Commission, voluntarily tendered immediately on my return from abroad, and my appointment to office. Am I not, then, justified in saying, that where effectual Reform is seen to be necessary, there is no indisposition, in the highest authorities of the country, to give them both assistance towards so desirable an end. I entirely agree, and soon did agree, with those who feel that there never can be a perfect system of law Reform established, until all judicial sinecures shall have been destroyed. In any measure intended to be effective, provision must be made to abolish judicial sinecures. I, myself, introduced a Bill to destroy those abuses, and I believe with no little success and benefit; but, if any still remain uncorrected, I will give my support to any Bill, the object of which may be to render as pure as possible everything connected with the administration of justice.
§ Mr. Hume
had not intended to trouble the House on this Question, but the right hon. Baronet's personal allusion to him, rendered it necessary that he should say a few words. The right hon. Baronet had asked him, whether the introduction of this Bill, was one of the reasons which had induced him (Mr. Hume) to alter the course which he had originally intended to pursue, with respect to the Supplies? His answer was, that in changing that intention, the measure under consideration, never, for a moment, entered into his contemplation. It would seem that the right hon. Baronet assumed great merit for the introduction of this Bill, and that he wished it to be considered as a guarantee of the intentions of his Majesty's present Government, on the subject of Reform. The fact was, that the right hon. Gentleman had crept into the nest of the late Administration, and was then hatching the eggs which his predecessors had laid; and now, forsooth, he was taking great credit for the incubation.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer,
in 921 answer to the question just put to him, by the hon. Member for Middlesex, said that it was the intention of his Majesty's Government to introduce a Bill for facilitating the local administration of justice. [Mr. Hume said, his question had reference to County Courts.] What was the difference? Were not County Courts a local administration of justice? The Bill which he had stated it was the intention of his Majesty's Government to introduce, was for facilitating the local administration of justice; and the hon. Member would have an opportunity, on its introduction, of expressing his opinion as to the best mode of securing that object. While on his legs, he must beg to observe, that the hon. Gentleman entirely mistook some of the observations which had fallen from him. He (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) had not denied that the late Government were prepared to bring in a measure similar to the present; he had merely stated what was the fact, namely, that the Commission, upon the report of which the measure was founded, had been instituted by the Duke of Wellington's Administration. There was no merit in merely drawing the Bill; for it was drawn from the suggestions contained in the Report made by the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite, and the other Members of the Commission. So far from having shown any want of candour, on the occasion, he had given the merit to those to whom it was due. The hon. Member for Middlesex had been wonderfully learned, and curiously facetious upon the subject of incubation. The hon. Gentleman had recently had some practical experience of the throes of labour and the anxious cares and doubtful results, of the process to which he had alluded. The hon. Member had laid an egg, which he could neither hatch himself, nor get anybody else to hatch for him. What was to become of this redoubted egg? It had been, after an appropriate prelude, laid a week since; there was, then, a grave doubt as to whether it was to be hatched by the hon. Gentleman or some other hen; but, after all this patient agony of incubation, it appeared that neither the hon. Member for Middlesex, nor any other biped, feathered or unfeathered, could bring this egg to maturity. He had found an excuse for the hon. Gentleman for deserting his nest, in the earnest of Reform measures, which had been given by the Go- 922 vernment, but he (Mr. Hume), instead of receiving it as a courteous assistance, had accused him of creeping into the nest of the late Ministry.
observed, that the right hon. Baronet should not count his own chickens before they were hatched; for he would probably find the chicken of his hon. friend, the Member for Middlesex, a good fighting-cock yet; but the proper time to crow was when the victory was gained. To come back, in sober sadness, to the question before the House; any one would have supposed that the discussion of such a subject might have been kept free from all party feelings. There had been no indication of such feelings on his side of the House; in his opinion there ought not to have been any on the other side of the House. It was quite evident, that but for the dissolution of the late Ministry, they would have brought forward this identical measure. The assumption of any merit, therefore, on the part of the present Government was an empty and unfounded boast. They stepped into other men's shoes, and then strutted proudly about as if the shoes actually belonged to them. He was glad to hear that so many eminent men, so many Bishops and Judges concurred in forwarding this Bill. But what must their predecessors have been who allowed all these abuses, all these sinecure duties to go on without remonstrance or interference. He willingly admitted that the Bill, as far as it went, would effect a salutary Reform. It would lop off some of the branches of corruption, but it would still leave the trunk standing; and he must say, that he thought his hon. and learned Friends on both sides of the House were wrong in not going further. Why have any Ecclesiastical Courts at all? This wisest of all possible countries had three descriptions of administration of justice—the Common Law, the Equitable, and the Ecclesiastical. The simplicity of legal proceedings would, in his opinion, be best consulted by a simplicity of courts. Why should it be necessary, first to prove a will in an Ecclesiastical Court, and then to carry its provisions into effect in a Court of Law, or a Court of Equity? Would it not be much better, instead of these three courts, to have only one? With reference to divorce cases, he had no hesitation in saying, that in his opinion marriages ought to be indissoluble. But if allowed to be 923 dissolved at all, nothing certainly could be more unjust than the present system, by which the rich man alone was enabled to procure a divorce, because the rich man alone had the means of applying to Parliament for it. In fact, there was one law for the rich and another law for the poor. The right hon. Baronet seemed to think that there were too great facilities both for marriage and for divorce in Scotland. There was no reason, however, to believe, that on that account there was more immorality in Scotland than in this country. The right hon. Baronet also did not seem to be aware of the difference between local courts and the local administration of justice. Now, although there were no local courts at present, yet the assizes produced a local administration of justice. The distinction, therefore, was obvious. In Scotland there were local courts and local judges, and so there were, to a certain extent, in Ireland; but not so in England. He confessed that he was not for too much centralization; and he had thought it one of the defects of the Registration Bill that it was not local in its character, but central. He was convinced that immense advantages would result from the establishment of local courts in England. It had been objected to them that it would not be practicable to provide a succession of judges sufficiently qualified. It was practicable in Scotland, and why should it not be so in this country? He certainly approved of this Bill; but he begged to observe, that three of the most important Bills, connected with law reform, had been left to be introduced by the late Attorney-General.
§ Mr. Scarlett
observed, with reference to what had fallen from the hon. and learned Member for Dublin, that he had always understood it as one of the most happy circumstances in the administration of justice in this country, that the local was united with the central administration. He was of opinion that the ministerial parts of the administration of the Ecclesiastical Law, the granting of probates and the registering of wills, should be left in the country; but he was by no means prepared to say that the judicial administration of that law might not be advantageously transferred to London.
§ Colonel Jones Parry
expressed his entire concurrence in the applause which had been bestowed by so many hon. Gentlemen on either side of the House upon the ad- 924 mirable measure of Reform which had that night been brought forward by his Majesty's Government. He was greatly gratified to hear the right hon. Baronet state the readiness which all the high authorities, ecclesiastical and judicial, had evinced in forwarding rational and well-considered reform; and he had only, as an individual, to add, that he was willing, both upon his own part and that of a near relative of his, to give up any lay patronage they might happen to possess for the benefit, and to aid in the promotion, of true religion.
Leave was given to bring in the Bill.