HC Deb 10 February 1837 vol 36 cc415-32
Mr. Hume

rose to ask leave to bring in a Bill which he had introduced last Session, for the appointment of County Boards, to superintend the financial department in each county. The late period at which the Bill had been introduced last Session, prevented its getting farther than the first reading. Since, then, however, the country had been made acquainted with its provisions and its objects, for he had sent a copy of the Bill to the clerk of the peace in each county. Perhaps he might be told by some persons that this was a very gratuitous act, but he conceived he had only done his duty. A Bill brought in by the hon. Member for Stroud, and passed at the end of last Session, had rendered most of the enactments, which the Bill he formerly introduced contained, useless. The one he now sought to introduce made a complete distinction between the financial and the judicial business of the county. It was limited to the financial department only—the judicial, he thought, ought to remain with the representatives of his Majesty. Much misconception had gone abroad on the subject of the present Bill, and he thought it necessary to state its principle and its object. It was intended that a council should be elected in each county by the rate-payers in the county for the management of the finances. By the previous Bill it was provided that all divisions of the counties were to be made by commissioners to be named under the Bill. Some suggestions had been made to him on this point, and it was now intended that the divisions made by the Poor-law Commissioners should be adopted where that was found advantageous. He therefore proposed that the Commissioners should have a discretionary power to adopt divisions already existing, and to make them where it was necessary; and he had no doubt that if the council were once established, they would, in a few years, be able to point out the exact limit of every division. It was proposed, also, that an election should take place in every parish, the votes to be taken by proper officers, and the returns to be sent to the officer of the union. The Bill also appoints auditors, to be elected by the ratepayers, and all officers under the Bill, from the secretary to the servant, were to be paid a certain fixed salary, but to be entitled to no fees. The Bill also proposed the establishment of a system of police under the direction of the county board. They would thus obtain throughout the country one uniform and systematic body of police, which he believed would prevent a great many offences, and he was sure that the expense of such a system of efficient police would not exceed the sum expended on the present inefficient body. The Bill went to assimilate the counties to the burghs, and to give to rate-payers the management and control over their finances. It was also proposed that the unions should have the power of recommending individuals to be appointed by his Majesty as justices of the peace. This was a point which he was aware was considered of very great difficulty, but he deemed it essential to the well-working of the system, and hoped it would meet with no opposition. He was anxious to see a responsible magistracy, as it appeared to him the country stood greatly in need of it. He moved that leave be given to bring in a Bill for placing the finances of counties under a County Board, to be elected by the rate-payers.

Mr. Ewart

begged to second the motion so unostentatiously brought forward by his hon. Friend. He was glad that one portion of the measure related to the county magistracy. There was one anomaly in the present system which permitted clergymen to assume the judicial character. He believed there were two counties in England where clergymen were not allowed to sit on the Bench. He trusted that that practice would be extended to all England, as it was a violation of the attributes of justice and religion, to unite the spiritual and judicial authority in one person. He felt bound to approve of the system of an effective county police, and he ventured to think that the hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth, would have acted more in accordance with the spirit of the age, had he, when he established the metropolitan police, placed the management and control of it under a municipal government. The practice of establishing county boards had been long introduced even in despotic countries. They existed in Prussia—they were also established in France and in Belgium. In France, he believed the germ of liberty would spring from them, and not from a subservient Chamber of Deputies. The present Bill was in strict accordance with the ancient practice of this country, and he considered if the measure passed, it would be the greatest been the country had received since the Reform Bill, if not superior to that Bill itself.

Colonel Sibthorp

did not rise to oppose the Bill on the present occasion. He had read it, and if it was not the same as that of last Session he considered it as of equally dangerous tendency. He objected to it on one ground—it gave great political power to the Secretary of State, and besides this, it would make an additional charge on the poor-rates, already sufficiently burdensome. He considered the Bill as transferring the whole management of the affairs of a county to a body of persons who had no property at all, and it conveyed an imputation upon a body of men who had hitherto discharged their duty honestly and faithfully. He thought the Bill was introduced for the purpose of undermining the ancient constitution of the country. He feared there would be little use in resisting the measure in that House, particularly in such a House of Commons as they now had, but he trusted in another place it would not meet with approbation. However, as far as he was concerned, he should be always in his place, to give the Bill every opposition in his power.

Sir Eardley Wilmot

said, that when the hon. Member for Middlesex brought in his Bill last Session, he expressed then, as he did now, his approbation of the principle of not intrusting funds to the management of any body of persons without responsibility, and he was perfectly willing that some restriction should be made upon the power of the magistrates to deal with the county rates, in order that they might escape even the suspicion of corruption. Whether this Bill would have this effect or not was another question. The duties of the magistrates of quarter sessions, were threefold,—the control of the county expenditure; the civil business, which included appeals; and thirdly, the judicial business. Now, any one who had any experience in these matters knew very well, that after the first day of the Sessions, when matters relating to the county expenditure were finished, the attendance was very scanty, and for the hearing of the civil business and appeals there was rarely a bench composed of more than three or five members, although cases of great importance were frequently brought before them and when the judicial business came to be disposed of, it was, with the greatest difficulty sometimes, that he was able to get one magistrate to hear the cases with him, so that if the county business were taken away from the magistrates at quarter sessions, there would be, he would not say no inducement, but no occupation for them, after they had travelled a considerable distance and incurred considerable expense. He contended, therefore, that if this Bill were carried it would alter the whole construction of the judicial establishment of the county, and it would be necessary to have a single person appointed to transact the judicial business. A county recorder, competent to the business, might not only deliver the gaol every sessions, but by holding a court every fortnight would do away with the necessity of having Local Courts, and the result would be, that imprisonment before trial would seldom be more than seven days. When punishment was immediate upon the commission of crime, a most important advantage was obtained; for not only did offences become less frequent, but an enormous expense would be saved by not keeping prisoners two or three months in prison before trial. But there was one point in the observations of the hon. Member for Liverpool, to which he wished to draw the attention of the House. The hon. Member seemed to suppose that the chief and most important duties of the magistrates consisted in trying prisoners. He totally forgot how they were employed when they did not sit at quarter sessions. The most important of their duties was their residence in the various places in the county where they lived, and where they were enabled to act as friends of the poor, and heal disputes as arbitrators and referees. In cases of assault, differences between masters and servants, and cases of trespass, their interposition was most constant and most useful. They formed a link in the social chain which bound the poor and the middle class together, and if the hon. Member's Bill were carried, he feared greatly that it would dissolve a connexion which had been most beneficial to the country. He contended that the large amount of the county rates was not attributable to the mal-administration of the county funds by the magistrates, but to the burdens which had been thrown on them by the legislature itself. The Prisoners' Counsel Bill alone doubled the expenses of trials, and the Weights and Measures' Bill, and expense of country bridges, all fell upon the county rates, and he would venture to say, that the magistracy had done everything in their power to reduce the rates, and had, to a great extent, succeeded in effecting that object. Nothing could be more unwise than a measure, the effect of which would be to take away the resident magistracy. He wished that Ireland had, like this country, a large, a resident, and a respectable magistracy, and he would pledge his credit that it would be more quiet and peaceable than it was now. He could bear his testimony to the charac- ter of the magistrates of England. They had always, as far as his observation extended, been ready to give their attention to the petitions and recommendations of all classes, no matter how humble. As to clerical magistrates, he had long contended that they ought not to be in the Commission of the Peace, but in many counties it was extremely difficult to get a sufficient number of magistrates without clergymen, and till this obstacle was surmounted he should not. be able to say that, in his opinion, no clergymen ought to be magistrates. With respect to this Bill, he wished to know if the hon. Member would be satisfied to introduce his Bill for one county, Middlesex alone, as an experiment, because the difference between the metropolitan counties and the rural districts was as great as between light and dark. If the hon. Member would be content with that, and succeeded in carrying his Bill, and it were found, after a year's trial, that it worked well, he would support him in bringing forward a Bill to apply to the whole of England.

Colonel Wood

protested against the limitation of this Bill to the county of Middlesex. If it were to pass into law, it ought to be extended to the kingdom at large, otherwise it would look like a slur upon the magistracy of the county to which its application was to be confined. As far as the county of Middlesex was concerned, he could not but regret that the magistrates of that county had to complain of the non-attendance of one of their body who occupied an influential position in it on all those occasions, when the financial business of the county was under consideration. Yes, he was sorry to say that the hon. Member for Middlesex was, of all the magistrates of that county, the magistrate that attended least to the auditing of its financial accounts, and to the controlling of its expenditure. Without entering at all into the merits of the Bill, he would give notice that on the second reading of this Bill, he would oppose it, and take the sense of the House upon it.

Mr. O'Connell

thought, that what had fallen from the hon. Baronet, the Member for Warwickshire, ought to induce the House to pass the Bill, as he had had great experience in the business of quarter sessions. He stated, that, if the Bill passed, it would be necessary to have a county judge. Now in Ireland there was a precedent that was found to work well, and from the late divisions of counties by the Lord-lieutenant, the assistant barrister was obliged to spend almost his entire time in the discharge of his duties. He believed it would be of great advantage to the people of England to have a person qualified to act and educated for the administration of the laws. He did not know that the conduct of the magistracy of Middlesex was so pure as to be above all suspicion; for he had read in the newspapers some resolutions passed by the vestry of St. George, Hanover-square, in which they intimated that the magistracy of that county had misapplied some 11,000l. of the county money. The hon. Baronet seemed to think that if magistrates were selected by the people, the character of the office would not be exalted. Now he was of a different opinion, and he was sure the bad would be omitted and the good only returned. He went, however, on higher ground, and he would state that it was only a return to the old constitutional principle of taxation by representation and of election by the people. It appeared that magistrates, however pure, were not, like Cæsar's wife, above suspicion. The Bill before the House proposed a return to the common law practice prior to the time of the statute of Edward 3rd, which was enacted pro hac vice to vest in the Crown the appointment of magistrates. The gallant Member for Lincoln was afraid that this was of a democratic principle. If the word democratic were translated for his benefit, it would be seen that it only meant popular, and he did not think it so fearful a thing to give to the people of England a popular control over the expenditure of money raised from themselves. The appointment of the Lord Lieutenant was objectionable—he might be a Whig, and then he probably would appoint what the gallant Member for Lincoln might call improper magistrates. He might be a Tory, and the odds were that he was so, and then he would nominate persons in whom the people could not have confidence. It was well known that the commission was given away as a matter of favour; no one denied it, and it was a fearful thing that persons should be selected, not for their fitness or capability, but for their having found favour in the eyes of the Lord Lieutenant of the county.

Mr. Shaw

admitted the system of assistant-barristers had worked well in Ireland, but doubted whether it would work equally well in England. He must, like the hon. Member for North Warwickshire, protest against any measure which would destroy the golden link between the middle classes and poor, by depriving the latter of their natural friends and protectors.

Mr. Richards

asked, was not the Bill intended to give power to the democracy? He would ask the hon. Member for Middlesex to point out to him any petitions which had been presented from the counties of England, complaining of the conduct of the magistracy, or praying for the proposed alterations. He was not aware of any such having been presented. And looking at the state of the great commercial interest in that great city, where there was nothing but doubt, perplexity, and alarm, he could not attribute the hon. Member for Middlesex's allowing his mind to be perverted to so trivial an affair as this or to any other cause than to the spirit of party.

Mr. Arthur Trevor

could not allow the introduction of the present Bill, without expressing his opposition to it. He considered it a measure, than which, he had never seen anything more essentially dangerous. There were already, as he thought, enough elections of one kind or the other without introducing any fresh; and from what he had seen of those elections, he had little cause to be pleased with them; he thought that they did not tend to the good harmony of society, or the good order of the community, but that they were productive of much ill will. He could not agree with the hon. Member for Lincoln, that he did not like to act on a bench of magistrates along with the clergy; when he (Mr. Trevor) had seen those rev. gentlemen on the bench, he had never seen any conduct from them but such as would do honour to their sacred character. In many parts of the country the gentry were very few, and in those parts if the clergy did not act as magistrates much inconvenience would be experienced. He objected also to the observations of the hon. Member for Kilkenny, as to the conduct of Lords-Lieutenant in the appointment of magistrates. He (Mr. Trevor) did not think that the Lords-Lieutenant acted from political motives. He thought no one would object to sit on the same bench, or act as a magistrate with a gentleman, because their political creeds happened to differ. The hon. Member for Middlesex had no right to throw out any insinuations, and he could not think of the reason why the hon. Member should bring forward this Bill, unless it was because it was the fashion of the present day not to leave one earthly thing alone. It was the opinion of hon. Gentlemen opposite that if anything had continued for a long period it was necessarily wrong, and that an entire change must take place without consulting public opinion, and whether any complaints were expressed or not. Had any petition been presented in favour of any such change as the present? The hon. Member for Liverpool would, perhaps, tell him whence they had come; he was not aware of any. He agreed that one great tendency of the present measure was towards democracy, and towards giving a preponderating power to that class of persons which has very little to lose—to the prejudice of those who have a great deal. The Opposition were continual told that this measure and that measure was only working out the principle of the Reform Bill; all he could say was, that if such were the case, the Reform Bill had been the parent of a most mischievous offspring. After the opinion expressed by his hon. Friends around him, that this Bill should be allowed to be laid on the table, it would be presumptuous in him now to offer any opposition; but if he had consulted his own feelings, he would have divided the House upon it, even if he had stood alone. He objected to it, however ab initio usque ad finem, and he should not omit any step which might lead to its rejection.

Lord John Russell

thought it was rather hard of the hon. Member who had just sat down to complain of the hon. Member for Middlesex for introducing this Bill, and because the hon. Member for Middlesex would not leave things alone, since it was only the other day that the hon. Member for Durham had himself given notice for the introduction of two Bills—one for the punishment of offences against the person, and the other for an alteration in the sale of Beer Bill. If the hon. Member did not like continued alteration, why could he not leave these two subjects alone?—He was to be allowed to meddle with what he pleased, but the hon. Member for Middlesex, and every body else, were not to be allowed that privilege.—With respect to the principle of the present Bill it would be difficult to make any objection. Where a large sum of money was raised by rate and expended, a sum the amount of which had been much increased within the last few years, he thought that the principle of placing the levying and expenditure of the rate in some measure under the control of the rate-payers was not objectionable.—It had been said that there were no petitions in favour of such a change; but if he recollected there had been petitioners from Staffordshire, Somersetshire, and Hertfordshire; and with respect to the county of Devon, in particular, he knew that much ill-will and considerable discontent existed among the farmers and yeomanry, because their money was disposed of without any control on their part. There was, therefore, a prima facie case for the introduction of this Bill by the hon. Member for Middlesex. He did not know whether he had understood correctly the observations which the hon. Member for North Warwickshire had made in stating that this was not a Bill which he was prepared to second. He was, however, inclined to use as an argument in favour of this Bill the very observations which the hon. Baronet had used as an argument against it. The hon. Baronet had stated that the magistrates were in the habit of attending in great numbers to discuss the expenditure of the county rates, to examine what monies had been levied and received, to see how the county treasurer discharged his duty, and, when occasion required, to appoint his successor; but that when it was necessary to obtain their presence upon the civil business of the county their attendance was thin, and when it was necessary to obtain it on criminal business it was still thinner. Now he did not consider such a state of things very creditable to the magistracy. That the chairman of the quarter sessions should be left with only two magistrates, and those, perhaps, not the most distinguished for talent, to transact the criminal business of the county, was a spectacle that one would not wish to see, and there could be no good reason for continuing such a system. The hon. Baronet, the Member for North Warwickshire, likewise observed, that if this plan proposed by the hon. Member for Middlesex were adopted, it might lead to the appointment of a recorder or judge for each county. He would not give a decided opinion on the propriety of such an appointment, but this he would say, that there was great difficulty at present in obtaining the assistance of gentlemen competent for the task of acting as chairmen at quarter sessions. No one knew better than the hon. Member for North Warwickshire that it required considerable talent, great knowledge of law, and no small sacrifice of time, to perform that task in an adequate manner. With the great increase of civil and criminal business which had arisen of late years, and with the still greater increase which might be expected from the Prisoners' Counsel Bill passed last session, that task would become every year more arduous and laborious, and he therefore anticipated that from year to year it would become more difficult to find a competent chairman for the quarter sessions. If his anticipation should be correct, and if it should in consequence become necessary to appoint recorders of counties, that would form no reason for not separating the financial from the criminal business of the county. He would not venture at present any opinion upon the details of this measure. He hoped, however, that the hon. Member for Middlesex would bring them forward in such a shape as would enable the Bill to pass the Legislature, and that he would take care not to create any expensive offices in the machinery he might devise for carrying it into effect. He did not mean to assert that there were not objections to the mode in which the business was now conducted—he admitted that there were objections, and he hoped that the hon. Member for Middlesex would find means to obviate them. He thought that the county council ought to be kept together as short a time as possible, and that there should be as few permanent paid officers as possible. With regard to the clause for the appointment of magistrates, he must say, that in his opinion, it did not stand at present in a very satisfactory state. He was free to admit, that there was at present a want of system and of regularity in the mode of appointing the county magistracy. The appointments depended too much on the opinions, and he might even say, the prejudices, of individuals. There was no general rule by which the Lord-Lieutenants were guided in the selections they made of individuals for the bench. Each acted upon his own discretion. For instance, the Duke of Wellington did not think it right to recommend any clergyman for the magistracy, when any other gentleman could be appointed in the district. Other Lord-Lieutenants adopted a different rule, and recommended a greater number of clergymen than of any other class to the bench. Though he did not think much of the patronage exercised by the Lord-Lieutenants, he must say, that a practice had grown up amongst them, on which it was incumbent to place a check. It was the practice of most of the Lord-Lieutenants, when a gentleman was recommended to them as a fit person to be inserted in the commission of the peace, to refer his name to the magistrates of the district, and to determine, upon their answer, whether he would insert his name or not. This gave the magistrates the power of electing as their colleagues on the bench men of their own party, and of rejecting those, who though objectionable to them on private grounds might not be objectionable on any public grounds. He thought that there should be greater uniformity than that which now existed in the rules for determining the eligibility of individuals to the magistracy, but he was not prepared to go the length of saying that the Crown ought not to have the power of appointing as magistrates other individuals besides whose who were recommended to it by the county council.

Sir Eardly Wilmot

had only meant to say that the chairman of quarter sessions executed almost all the duties of the magistrates, whilst the others sat merely to make a court. They were merely wanted to make up a court and it could not be expected that many Gentlemen could be induced to attend, when they had nothing to do but to sit with their hands before them.

Mr. Palmer

had been Chairman of the Sessions in Berkshire for several years, and had experienced no difficulty from the non-attendance of magistrates to assist in the criminal business, but this he attributed to the fact, that the criminal business was transacted before the civil. He believed that the hon. Member for Middlesex had brought in the Bill in order to save expence to the counties, and he (Mr. P.) was not disposed to offer any objection to the general principle, that those who pay the rates should have some voice in the expenditure, though he thought there was a considerable difference between the county-rate and the public taxes, because the county magistrates had no power to make a rate and levy money except so far as they were authorized by the Legislature, and they had little discretion given to them except as to the salaries which they should give to their officers. The hon. Member for Middlesex had complained that he had not received any answer from any county magistrate to whom his circular had been addressed, but he would take the liberty of informing the hon. Member, that in the County of Berks, this did not proceed from any disrespect. The letter was taken into consideration by the Magistrates, they expressed their thanks to the hon. Member for his courtesy, but they thought it no part of their duty to give an explicit answer, they had, however, instructed the Clerk of the Peace to write to the hon. Member, thanking him for his attention; and, as far as he (Mr. Palmer) could collect, the general impression was, that although it was desirable to give a control to the people, yet that a greater expense than at present would be created by this Bill, without presenting any countervailing benefits from its theoretical advantages.

Mr. Pryme

would recommend to the hon. Baronet and the other Members opposite to follow the example of the Magistrates of Cambridge, who highly approved of the principle of the Bill. It was most essential, in his opinion, that the financial and civil business should be separated, as at present the system was productive of much inconvenience.

Mr. Potter

complained of the lavish manner in which the public money was expended by the Magistrates, though the hon. Member for Berkshire had said they had no discretion.

Mr. Palmer

explained. What he meant to say was, that very little of the county expenditure was now under the actual control of the Magistrates, except the salaries of their own officers.

Mr. Potter

had at that moment in his eye the Castle of York, to which the walls of Babylon were nothing. That had been built at an enormous expense, and was a monument of folly to the country. There was also the gaol of Leicester, which was unfortunately too large for the wants of the people of that county—and in Lancashire the Magistrates had persisted in laying out large sums upon the gaol, although they were well aware that for some years it was the general opinion that the assizes for the southern division of the county should be held at Liverpool or Manchester. That gaol was now much too large, and he was glad that some check was likely to be put to this lavish and injudicious expenditure

Mr. Montague Chapman

did not think it right to enter into the details of the measure at that early stage, but he thought it right to direct the attention of the House to the principle of the Bill, and one more obnoxious in principle, or more objectionable in detail, he had never read. He could not suppose the House would pass a Bill so degrading to the Magistracy, and so derogatory to the privileges of the Crown itself. Were not the Magistrates selected from those who had the largest property in the county?—and would it be now said, that they should take from them the management of their own property? He meant the property of the county, in the disbursement of which they had so large a stake. Would not any man who came to take a farm inquire what the amount of poor-rates and county-rates, &c, was, before he fixed upon the value of the farm, and was not the landlord therefore the person most deeply interested in the amount and application of those rates? The Bill not only prevented that, but it prevented the Magistrates interfering with the police force of the county, although no class of men were so fit to arrange that portion of the local business of the country. He had taken some pains to ascertain where those rate-payers who would have a vote were to be found, and he had ascertained that in the agricultural districts the sum total of the rates paid did not exceed one-twentieth of the whole. In short, the 3l. tenants, men who had no interest whatever in the land, would have a voice in the election of that council which was to nominate the Magistrates; and be it observed, that there was no security as to qualification of the persons they were to elect. He thought it would be necessary for the hon. Member for Middlesex to do what he had recommended to his hon. Friend the Member for Bath—to pat Ministers a little oftener on the back, before he could expect to carry that most objectionable measure, which he was confident would be rejected by the House.

Captain Pechell

thought it must be satisfactory to the hon. Member for Middlesex, to know that no objection had been taken to the principle of the Bill. He believed it would always be found that where hospitality was extended to the Magistrates by the gentry of the neigh bourhood, there was always a full attend- ance at Sessions. In the county of Sussex, with which he had the honour to be connected, he was happy to say that the Lord Lieutenant had broken through the rule of appointing Magistrates solely on the recommendation of the Bench, a thing which he thought highly objectionable. One inconvenience of the present mode of conducting the business at Quarter Sessions, was, that the Magistrates were often obliged to retire into another room, to look over the county rates, instead of being able to attend to the trial of prisoners committed by themselves. Another objection was, that all information as to the purpose to which the rate was levied, was in many instances withheld from the rate-payers. The Bill was on these grounds most likely to give great satisfaction to the country, and would receive his (Capt. Pechell's) strenuous support.

Mr. Wakley

expressed the warmest approbation of both the principle and details of the Bill, as the present system of levying county-rates had been productive or great injustice and inconvenience. It had been asked what petitions had been presented in favour of the Bill. Many would have been presented if the mode of presenting them in that House were more satisfactory. Thousands would have been presented if it were not known that petitions which had cost weeks of preparation were presented without discussion or observation, and with the formality of merely walking from that place to the table. With respect to the election of a county board by the rate-payers, there was nothing objectionable; they had an election every seven years for Members of Parliament, and yet here was a case in which the interests of every working man in England were concerned, in which the application and levy of the surplus of his labour were concerned, and what did they see on the other side of the House which had exhibited so laudable an anxiety to establish Conservative Operative Associations? Why, that not twenty Members could be brought together upon a question so vitally important to the working classes, so deeply affecting the security of their property, the welfare of their persons, and the happiness of their children. Here was an illustration of the democratic principle, the object of which was to give life and energy to the country, to protect the interests of all classes; and great as were the obstacles which it had to encounter, it was sure to succeed. In the struggle it was now making against tyranny and despotism, it would eventually prostrate every foe and secure to the people the greatest share of happiness and enjoyment they could acquire. No honest magistrate could object to the Bill—it would confer a greater power upon the good magistrates and remove it from those who had hitherto only abused it. A better Bill, in his opinion, had never been introduced. It had been proposed to confine its operation to Middlesex, and he (Mr. Wakley) for one Middlesex rate-payer, was most anxious it should be applied to that county. If the other parts of England were aware of the advantages it would confer, it would soon be very generally established. What, he would ask, was there objectionable in it? The hon. Member for Essex had said that those who would have the right of voting paid only one-twentieth part of the rates. He would be glad to know where or how he had made such a calculation. In some counties in England the county and poor-rates were combined, yet in others they were very properly separated. Hon. Members said no, but he would satisfy them that such was the case, in the county of Middlesex and elsewhere, and he hoped it would soon be very generally established throughout the country.

Mr. George F. Young

would merely offer one observation to the House. The principle of the Bill was, in his opinion, short and comprehensive—it was, that those on whom the burthen fell should have some voice in the nomination of those by whom it was to be imposed. To that he expressed his unqualified assent, and he regretted that the hon. Member for Essex should have so inappropriately directed his arguments to that point. If any objection was hereafter made to the details of the measure they would see how they could be amended in Committee. As a magistrate of the county of Middlesex, he was glad to see the principle put forward, and he hoped it would receive the sanction of the House.

Mr. Goring

would ask the hon Member for Middlesex, whether any demand had been made by the middle or higher classes for a stricter inquiry into the expenditure of the county-rates? No such thing, and until that was done, he saw no necessity for the present measure.

Mr. Wyse

said, the principle on which this Bill was founded was that on which the House of Commons was constituted, and on which the Municipal Corporation Bill passed the year before last was framed, and the arguments of hon. Gentlemen opposite (if good for anything) against the principle of the Bill, would equally tend to destroy both the one and the other. The hon. Gentleman opposite had not proved that magistrates had sufficiently attended to the discharge of their public duties. He contended for this great principle that a free people ought to have control over the money which they themselves raised. The Bill was called popular and democratical. It ought to be as much so as the Municipal Corporation Bill, or the Reform of Parliament Bill. The frequency of elections which had been complained of would, he considered, along with elections for vestries, or municipal councils, tend to educate and prepare the people for the exercise of the more important franchise—the Parliamentary. What right had that House to set up two kinds of constitutions, one for the towns and the other for the counties? He saw no reason why the people of England should be deprived of the benefit of those institutions, which were established in almost every civilised country in the world.

Sir Love Parry

said, that, as chairman of quarter sessions for his county, he had entered into the details of this Bill to a full attendance of his brother magistrates, and they agreed it contained many excellent provisions, though some of the details might be improved. He agreed with the hon. Baronet, the Member for Warwick, and the hon. and learned Member for Kilkenny, as to the propriety of establishing a county recorder, or judge. Not having been regularly educated for the law, he did not feel himself competent to discharge the duties of the situation he was called on to occupy.

Mr. Hume

replied. Three separate Committees had sat and reported upon the subject with which this Bill purposed to deal, and a commission had issued which had presented a very comprehensive report. He had presented on one occasion eight petitions from eight different counties in favour of the Bill. Hon. Members opposite had termed the Bill mischievous. Now, if by that they meant that it was popular, and tended to increase popular control, it was perfectly consistent in those Members who had steadily resisted all advancement of the popular cause to make that objection. But just on that ground that it was popular, and did extend popular control, did he (Mr. Hume) support the Bill. The Bill was also called an innovation. Now, let hon. Members recollect that he was not the innovator; that he was merely proposing a return to the ancient system. Lord Denman had lately decided, after elaborate argument, that the rate-payers had no right to apply to see the vouchers of county expenditure; that it was sufficient for the magistrates to see them, and the magistrates were irresponsible to the rate-payers. The details of the Bill might be doubtless improved, but he would not give up the principle of popular control, and he trusted that the House of Commons would not reject it. He had been accused of not attending the meetings of the Middlesex bench of magistrates, but the reason was, that he could not, by reason of other and more important duties, find time to discharge properly the functions of a county magistrate.

Leave given. Bill brought in and read a first time.