HC Deb 13 March 1838 vol 41 cc875-90
Mr. Sergeant Woulfe

rose to move for leave to bring in a Bill to amend the laws relating to the Registration of Voters in Ireland. As the registration law now stood in Ireland, a party claiming to register was obliged to go through a process established on two most important occasions. One was the occasion of passing the Catholic Emancipation Act, when an Act contemporaneous with that measure was passed to regulate the freeholders of Ireland. By that Act, it was provided, that every person claiming to register, except 50l. freeholders, and clergymen claiming from their glebe lands, should lodge a public notice at least thirty days before the Quarter Sessions, stating his intention to make such claim, and pointing out the nature of his qualifications. He was then to attend at the Sessions, for which he gave notice, and then to submit to a personal examination by the revising barrister as to his claim, producing, at the same time, all his proofs of title; and whether objected to or not, it was made incumbent on the revising barrister to examine narrowly into the nature of the qualification. Such was the system of registration established by the 10th of George 4th; and upon the occasion of the passing of the Reform Bill, so satisfactory was it deemed to be, that it was determined not to alter it. The system, it must be admitted, was a little rigorous as compared with that in use in England; but as a kind of mitigation of its greater severity, a clause was to be found in the Act under which it was established, giving an appeal from the adjudication of the Revision Court whenever that adjudication chanced to be unfavourable to the claimant. When the decision was in his favour there was no appeal from it, but when against him he might bring his claim before the Judge of Assize, who under the Act had power to reverse the barrister's decree. This arrangement, he considered, called for revision, and accordingly one of the objects of his bill was to give the power of appeal as well on one side as the other. There was then another part connected with the Irish registration system with which he proposed to interfere. As the law now stood in Ireland, a party once registered, notwithstanding that he might have parted with his freehold, changed his domicile, or done any other act whereby he parted from his qualification, continued on the register for a period of eight years, and on producing his original certificate of registry, and taking an oath that he had not parted with his qualification, might vote at an election. This, he thought, was highly inconvenient; and, therefore, he proposed by the present bill, that a party registered might be, at any subsequent registration, struck off the registry, on receiving proper notice of the fact, for any reason growing up subsequent to the original registry. He proposed that the Registration Court, instead of being held four times a-year as those which were now in existence were held, should be held only once in the course of each year; for there was a certain degree of excitement consequent upon the sitting of the courts to decide upon matters of this description, which rendered the recurrence of such an event as seldom as possible highly important. It was on this ground, therefore, that he had rested his present proposition; and, as the most convenient season for all parties, he had chosen the long vacation, or the months of September and October, for the sittings, the courts being held in each county and in the principal part of each county, in order that the registry might be inquired into in as convenient a mode as possible, Then, with respect to the constitution of the court, he proposed that it should consist of one judge or registering officer, and that the same registering officer should not sit in two counties in two successive years, but should go by rotation to undertake the duties of his office in a different part of the country, and thus the arrangement would be made on such a principle and in such a manner as that it should be shown to demonstration that the officers were not selected for any particular places, with any particular party object. Indeed, this would be sufficiently shown on the whole of the details of his plan being known, for the duties of the registering officer would be performed by the assistant-barristers, who were already appointed. At the same time that he mentioned this, however, he did not mean to say, that the assistant-barristers should pass from county to county in their capacity of assistant-barristers; but they would be left in that office as permanent officers, and they would only migrate in their capacity of registering officers. An objection might be made with regard to the selection of particular individuals, but this he considered was met by the course which he had adopted; for if he had not taken the line which he had suggested with regard to the assistant-barristers, there was only one other thing which could be done, and that would be by the appointment of new officers for the situation. This, however, he did not think desirable: for, in Ireland, there were already officers in existence who were accustomed to the duty, and who had been before considered the proper persons for the purpose. Besides, if the revising barristers who were to act were to be appointed by the Crown, the plan would at once, he was sure, meet with the opposition of hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House, who would be hostile to such a measure, as being likely to induce feelings in the minds of the judges most unfavourable to the interests of the public. Then it might be suggested that the barristers should be appointed, as was the case in England, by the judges; but to this, he must offer a most decided objection. He had a most reverential respect for the judges of England, and had every confidence in their impartiality; but the difficulty in the case was this, that it was impossible for the judges in Ireland on such questions to be supposed to be without a party feeling, and, therefore, however anxious they might be to act with a strict feeling of justice between the different parties, yet the ideas of the people would be so strong, that it would be impossible that that degree of respect should be had for the bench which its position in the state required. He considered that he consulted the interests of the judges themselves best by not giving them the power to which he referred; and he had reason to believe, that it was a power which the judges did not desire to possess. So much, then, for the constitution of the Registration Courts, and he would now come to the formation of the Appeal Court. At present, the appeal was to the Judge of Assize, and it was confined to one branch of the question. He proposed, however, that the right to appeal should not be confined to those whose votes were rejected; but that it should be extended also to those who objected to votes, and in consequence of this measure, and the general nature of the business, there would be insuperable objections to the Judges of Assize being the parties to whom the appeal was to be made. The Judge of Assize sat in places often at a distance of sixty or seventy miles from various parts of the counties in Ireland, and it was too much that all the voters, many of whom were poor, and unable to travel any distance at their own expense, should be called upon to go so far merely to uphold their votes which had been given or withheld by the assistant-barrister. It would be a grievance too heavy to be borne, and it would in reality have the effect in many instances of putting an end to the franchise in Ireland; and it would, therefore, be quite inconsistent with the continuance of the franchise to the constituencies to give the appeal to the Judge of Assize. The very mode in which the Judge transacted business, the nature of his business, of his having reference to matters of life and death, and attended frequently with the transfer of very large amounts of property, prevented the possibility of their paying that attention to the business of registration which it required; and this objection would appear the more strong when the provision of the bill was considered by which the appeal against the admission as well as against the rejection of votes was given. It proposed, then, that in matters of law the revising barristers should state the case in writing, in a clear and specific manner, and this statement should be transmitted to the courts of law in Dublin, where it should be decided; and to this provision, he thought there could be no objection, for it could not be said that the mode of appeal had been formed with any other than a desire to establish the best tribunal which could be framed. With regard to matters of fact, they were much more minute in Ireland than they were in this country, and the principal matter of fact which arose for consideration was the question of value. Now, with regard to this question, it was impossible to be inquired into except on the spot on which it arose, with any degree of certainty, in consequence of the difficulty and trouble attending the transportation of witnesses, for an acquaintance with the facts proceeded from a habitual knowledge gained on the spot. It was with a view, therefore, of providing the best means of inquiry upon this head, that he proposed that the Court of Appeal should consist of two assistant-barristers, and that this Court, also, should be constituted in such a way as that the judges should have no bias or personal feeling whatever, and as that no two should sit in the same county in two consecutive years. The assistant barristers would thus correct the judgment of the inferior tribunal so far as possible. He was fully aware, that if the judges could attend to such matters, it would be much better; but he felt, that any objection which could be made to the plan which he suggested, would be specious rather than otherwise, for the case was precisely similar to that of the appeals, which existed now from the decision of a single judge to the whole bench. This was the outline of the plan which he proposed in his bill, and it was not his intention to go into the objections which might be offered to its various clauses, which he thought would be better and more appropriately considered by the House when in Committee, than now, on a preliminary motion for leave to bring in the bill. Independently of the various changes in the law, however, which he had already pointed out, he intended that the bill should contain provisions declaring what was the law of several distinct points, and to this part of his bill, there was no doubt there would be some objections. Different constructions would doubtless be put on various acts of Parliament; but at the same time, he should propose that construction to be put on the law which he considered most reasonable, and it would hereafter be open to objection on the part of those hon. Members who differed from him. The first point was with regard to beneficial interest, which was a subject treated of in a former bill, introduced in the year 1835, by the present Mr. Justice Perrin, and the present Master of the Rolls in Ireland. He did not expect that hon. Members opposite would agree with him on this subject, but he thought that every one would be of opinion that the law should be settled distinctly one way or the other, in order that the consequences, which were most pernicious which at present proceeded from the state of uncertainty in which it stood, might be remedied. He also proposed that the adjudication of the Registration Court, confirmed by the courts of law, or by the Court of Appeal should be final and conclusive on the right of registration at the time of the registry; leaving it, however, to the option of any party to come forward, and, on payment of costs, to apply that any person should be struck off for any act done since the registration. He proposed, also, that the existing constituencies should be governed on the same principles as future constituencies; and, therefore, that at the first registration which should take place after the passing of the bill, it should be competent for any person to serve a notice on any of the parties whose names were on the register, and he would be compelled, then, to attend before the Court to support his vote. This was the general outline of the measure; the bill was one of very considerable importance to the country; and one, therefore, which it was desirable should be passed into a law as soon as possible; but at the same time that he should urge upon the House the importance of its being passed immediately, he should not press it on with any undue force, by which the Irish Members, or other hon. Gentlemen who might desire to oppose it, should be prevented from offering their objections.

Lord Stanley

agreed with the right hon. Gentleman in thinking that the present measure was one of very considerable importance, and he also concurred with him in pronouncing that this was not a fitting time to examine the details of the plan. He could, however, venture to assure him that the tone which he had employed in introducing this discussion, would be met by hon. Members on the Opposition side of the House in the same spirit. He agreed with the opinion expressed by the right hon. Gentleman, that it was impossible that the registration in Ireland should continue in its present state. But he must be permitted to correct an impression which the right hon. and learned Gentleman seemed to entertain, namely, that the present system of registration was deliberately re-adopted by the Reform Bill. So far from that being the case, that system had been characterised by himself and by other members of the then Government as full of faults, and it was only continued, because it was comparatively untried, and because it was designed, if possible, after the working of the system had been seen in England, to assimilate the law as nearly as the difference of circumstances between England and Ireland would permit. The first difficulty which presented itself in framing a system of registration, but a difficulty which struck at the root of the whole question was this; there was no test by which in the first instance they could regulate or judge of the value of land, and consequently there was nothing but hard swearing on the one side, to be rebutted by hard swearing on the other. A claimant was of necessity put forward to substantiate his own claim, much excitement of course arose, and much angry feeling, and, after all, there was no valid or sound test by which the value of the property could be estimated. He said this, because the right hon. Gentleman had laid great stress on the stringency of the examination to which the claimant of the franchise was subjected in Ireland compared to England. The right hon. Gentleman, had, however, forgotten that there was no guide to the value in Ireland such as existed in England, and that in England there was the best evidence that could be produced of the amount of value—namely, the amount of public burthens laid on the property in respect of which the party claimed to vote. The parochial overseer attested the fact, that the voter was subject to the parochial burthens. In England it was not because one or half a dozen people were ready to swear, that the house out of which the party sought to register was worth 10l. annually, that this right was conferred upon him. It was because the party gave the most convincing proof in his power, inasmuch as he subjected himself to the burthens involved in an assessment to that amount. This was a test of qualification which was worth twenty appeal courts. In Ireland, however, they found persons voting, because they were admitted to the exercise of this political privilege on the assumption of their possessing sufficient property, and excluded from the assessment for the local rate, at the same time, on the ground of their poverty. He did not seek to throw any difficulty in the way of the right hon. Gentleman, but when he saw a preliminary difficulty, he felt bound to state it at once. The right hon. Gentleman had declared his intention of passing this Bill through the House with the greatest possible expedition. He, on the other hand, desired that the Bill should be carried forward with the greatest circumspection and the utmost caution. He should like to see, before proceeding further with this measure the fate of another great Bill for the establishment of a regular assessment for the relief of the poor throughout Ireland. That assessment, if adopted, would give them a sound and solid foundation, as in England—not a qualification based merely upon sand. The right hon. Gentleman had told them that one of the greatest objections to the present system of registration in Ireland was, that according to the existing law, the appeal was all on one side, and he proposed to give the right of appeal against the franchise as well as in its favour. He also stated, that he would have these appeal courts limited in regard to the investigation which they should be authorised to institute; and that it was not all cases which should be brought before them; that cases of law should be referred to the judges, and cases of fact to these appeal courts. But he did not so distinctly understand the precise nature of this annual registration, which he admitted on the one hand, to be better in point of duration than registrations occurring at intervals of eight years; and better, on the other, than registrations taking place, as at present, every quarter. Indeed, the right hon. Gentleman himself admitted, that his system of annual registration was not altogether free from objection. He (Lord Stanley) wished to understand distinctly from the right hon. Gentleman whether it was his intention to propose that a voter once registered, and having secured the sanction of some one of these itinerant assistant barristers, which decision he would suppose to be again confirmed by two other barristers in rotation—whether it was his intention to propose that such a person should remain on the registry for life, without the chance of his vote being questioned?

Mr. Sergeant Woulfe

said, that he meant the registry confirmed upon appeal to be conclusive as to all matters affecting the voter at the time of the registry; but that the power should be reserved of examining as to any circumstance arising after that period by which the position of the voter might be materially altered, such, for instance, as his losing his freehold.

Lord Stanley

Then, I am right. Except in such an extreme case, his vote remains during his lifetime unquestioned.

Mr. Sergeant Woulfe

I propose that the law should remain as it now stands, and that the registry should be a valid registry for eight years.

Lord Stanley

readily admitted that this explanation diminished some portion of the force of his objection. But, he must declare his conviction that it would be decidedly better to leave the vote open to be questioned annually before different tribunals, than that it should remain unquestioned for eight years, because one tribunal had decided in its favour. The evil of the present system was, that when four assistant-barristers, he would suppose, rejected a voter's claim successively, when the judge also rejected his claim, a fifth assistant-barrister might step in at a subsequent period, and decide in the voter's favour. This evil was enhanced where there was no appeal; and a Committee of the House of Commons might be found to say that there should be no appeal. Now, this was an occurrence, which, although nearly incredible, might be almost daily witnessed. He was desirous to see a satisfactory system of appeal established throughout England, Scotland, and Ireland, and if he should happen to be placed upon any Irish election Committee, when he might have reason to apprehend a surreptitious intrusion of disqualified voters' names upon the registry, he should feel it to be his duty to vote in favour of opening the registry. He said so, because in the existing state of the law it was admitted on all hands that a remedy was needed, and this he believed to be the obvious remedy. This he believed to be one of the great causes of the corruption and perjury which had been charged against their election Committees. On the question of opening the registry nine-tenths of their decisions turned. Gentlemen on one side of the House were in favour of opening the registry; on the other side Gentlemen entertained a different opinion. He did not impugn their motives, though he could not conceive upon what grounds they came to such a conclusion. The moment that the ballot for an Irish Committee was struck, did they not all say at once how the decision would be? Why, this was what he said distinctly. If the success of the petition turned upon the question of opening the registry, and a Committee were struck, of Gentlemen the majority of whom were known to be opposed to the opening of the registry, it was perfectly well known that the petitioner had no chance. This, he repeated, was one of the grounds, and the uncertainty of the law was another of the grounds, upon which these charges were unjustly preferred against the election Committees of that House. As to the principle of a beneficial interest, the right hon. Gentleman might be assured that he would not succeed in establishing this point without the most serious opposition from hon. Gentlemen on the opposition side of the House. He was satisfied that this test was not intended when the bill was originally framed. The franchise which it sought to establish was totally distinct from that which was originally conceded to freeholders. It placed the leaseholders in a position totally differing from, and widely superior to, the holders of absolute freeholds. It was also clearly contrary to the intentions of the Reform Act. Again he assured the right hon. Gentleman that upon the point of qualification he must expect the serious opposition of hon. Gentlemen in opposition. It was most important, however, that the legal question should be settled. In discussing the details of the bill, he should act with the most dispassionate consideration—in the spirit of admitting the claims of all duly qualified electors, and of opposing all the obstacles that human ingenuity could devise to the swamping of the registry with a fictitious, fraudulent, and ridiculously insufficient, class of voters. He trusted, that the right hon. Gentleman would have less regard to expedition in this matter, and more to caution; and that he would bear in mind that he was dealing with a question of primary importance to the constituencies of England as well as Ireland, and affecting most materially the whole future policy and welfare of this great empire.

Mr. Morgan O'Connell

regretted, that the noble Lord could not abstain from discussing a question of this nature in a spirit of party. The greater part of the noble Lord's speech was an argument in favour of the election committees opening the registers in case of disputed returns for places in Ireland. This, in his opinion had nothing to do with the question before the House. The language of the noble Lord might be very proper to address to an election Committee up stairs, but it had nothing to do with respect to their amending the law relating to registering Irish voters. Everybody agreed, that the register should be placed on a better footing, and he did not see what the observations of the noble Lord respecting the opening the register had to do with the bill. He believed, that the dislike of the present law was not con- fined to the Gentlemen opposite; for the decisions of the registering barristers were very much found fault with on the other side as well. The decisions of most of the Committees were influenced in a considerable degree by the very valuable digest published by Mr. Hudson. He trusted, that the provisions of the bill would be more calmly and coolly considered in a future stage.

Sir K. Bateson

thought the observations of the noble Lord perfectly relevant. The present system was one which held out a frightful temptation to perjury. He trusted the right hon. the Attorney-General for Ireland would, as very easily he might, extend by this bill the benefit to Ireland already enjoyed in England, of taking the polls for counties at other places besides the county town. Good polling places could be afforded at the usual places where the quarter sessions were held, and a great saving of time to electors and of expense to candidates might be effected.

Sir W. Follett

said, that he should be extremely sorry if anything he said should be construed into an opposition to the introduction of this bill. All sides of the House were satisfied of the necessity of removing the present imperfections of the registration system in Ireland, and as far as he could understand the right hon. Gentleman, a considerable improvement in the existing system would be effected by the present bill. He, however, could not agree with the right hon. Gentleman in thinking it would be wise to hold a registry to be final for the space of eight years. Why should the House be called upon in that respect to legislate on a different principle for Ireland than for England, where the registry was subjected to annual revision? But he did not rise to enter now into a discussion of the details of the measure, but, agreeing in its principles, he rose for the purpose of offering an observation on one or two points which had incidentally been alluded to. This bill suggested the adoption, by its provisions, of two measures not strictly relating to registration, and which ought not to pass without observation. One of those provisions was the mode in which the right hon. Gentleman proposed a test of value of property in Ireland. The hon. Gentleman who had spoken last but one had said, that this would lead to a party division upon the bill. Notwithstanding that threat, he was sure it would not be decided by party feeling. If the right hon. the Attorney-General for Ireland would consult the noble Lord and the right hon. Gentlemen on the benches near him, or if he would consult any number of English Members from both sides of the House, he would find such a manifestation of feeling against the proposition, that he would never seek a division of the House upon it. In this country the mode of ascertaining the value of a property, if freehold, was by asking how much it would sell for, and if leasehold, by inquiring how much it would let for. Such had been the course during a long experience, of the means of ascertaining value, both for the purposes of the poor-laws, and also in reference to the Reform Bill. There was in this country no other mode to ascertain value, and no other mode would, he was sure, be adopted if fairly put to the House, and he warned the right hon. Gentleman that he never would carry his bill if that provision were framed on any other principle; that nothing would induce English gentlemen to admit the principle, that although the property might not be worth 10l., or even 2l. a-year, a party swearing that to him as a shopkeeper it was worth more than 10l. or 50l. a-year, should be admitted to the registry. Such a bill, he warned the right hon. Gentleman, he never would carry even through that House. The mode proposed as a test was no criterion of value, and would open the door to a continuation of that perjury which had appeared before the assistant barrister on registration, and which had disgraced every Committee before whom a question of value had been raised. He had seen it himself sworn over and over again before Committees of the House by a party with a house of 2l. annual value, that by reason of his occupation or beneficial interest it was of the value which gave the party swearing the right to the franchise. Such things had never been attempted in England; in this country it had never been attempted, even in the times of the greatest excitement, to venture upon such a system of increasing value. To such a principle of ascertaining value he most decidedly objected. But there was another clause, which required the deepest consideration before its principle was agreed to. He would not say whether it might be a right thing or not, to take from the House of Com- mons the right to adjudicate upon the validity or otherwise of returns of Members to this House, but he was not disposed to agree with the noble Lord, the Secretary for the Home Department, in thinking that it would be at all rash to part with that jurisdiction; on the contrary, he thought these matters would never be properly decided until that jurisdiction was parted with. But now, even after the declaration of the noble Lord, the right hon. the Attorney-General for Ireland, would deprive that House of the right of inquiring into the validity of Irish votes. He would protest against any plan, taking away from the House the power of adjudicating upon Irish elections, and yet retaining the right to interfere with English and Scotch elections. If there was to be a law to make the registry final, let it be extended. But in this proposition, he thought the right hon. Gentleman would not have the support of the noble Lord, the Member for Stroud; for, to make the register final, would be entirely to take away from this House the right to interfere in controverted elections. If the House, by its Committee, could not examine into the validity of the votes given at an election, why should the electors, disputing the return on such votes, be permitted to incur the expense of a petition to the House against a return so obtained? In cases from Ireland, the result would be, to take from the House the right to enter into a scrutiny of votes, and would put it into the hands of those who were appointed to their offices, and held them during the pleasure of the Crown. Supposing the present tribunal for registration in Ireland to be permitted to remain, he held that to be a strong objection to make the registration before such a tribunal final. He stated these two objections he entertained to the proposed measure, in order that he might not be supposed to be bound to the principle laid down for ascertaining value, and of depriving the House of the right to inquire into Irish elections, whilst the law was left unchanged with regard to other parts of the kingdom.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

should not have interfered on the present occasion, but that it appeared to him that the hon. and learned Gentleman, who had just sat down, and whose observations were deserving, at all times, of the fullest attention, laboured under some misconception of what had fallen from his noble Friend at the head of the Home Department, a few nights ago. When the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth, suggested to the House, on the second reading of the Bill introduced by the hon. and learned Member for Liskeard, that it would be a fit subject for the deliberate consideration of the House, whether or not it might be proper to deny itself any interference with matters of controverted elections, his noble Friend had stated, that when that question was brought forward, he trusted the House would approach it with that deliberation which it required, inasmuch as the proposition introduced the greatest change in the constitution of Parliament that had ever been entertained for the last 200 years. Further than that his noble Friend did not go. With regard to the other points raised by the hon. and learned Member for Exeter, the subject of the finality of registration had not now been introduced for the first time—it had been attempted in England, but no one ever had said that, if adopted, the House would have stopped itself from inquiring and adjudicating upon other matters connected with controverted elections. He could not sit down without saying, that he rejoiced to hear from the hon. and learned Member for Exeter, that in matters in which the political privileges of the people of Ireland were concerned, it would be a great object to establish equal laws with those of this country, and he could not but express a hope that, in the future deliberation of the House, the Government would have the benefit of his authority applied, in that respect to practical subjects.

Sir W. Follett

, in explanation, said, that he did not mean to state, that the House, by making the register final, would deprive itself wholly of jurisdiction in election matters; that certainly formed the main and most important jurisdiction, but still questions of bribery, and the like, would be open to election Committees of the House, even if this Bill should pass.

Mr. Litton

complained of this measure having been introduced as a declaratory law in respect to the mode of valuation. He had always understood that a declaratory law was, with a view to put an end to matters of doubt in the law. Now, all doubts upon this head, on the construction of the Irish Reform Act, had been set at rest by the deliberate judgment of the judges in Ireland, to the extent of ten out of the twelve. Therefore no doubt existed as to the law, and instead of this being a declaratory measure, it ought to be called a Bill to repeal the Reform Act, for it made a change in the most essential provision of that Act, that provision which confined the franchise to those individuals having a real bonâ fide value, and not allowing fictitious votes to swamp the constituency of the country.

Mr. Sergeant Woulfe

did not think that either the noble Lord or the hon. and learned Member for Exeter were justified in entering upon the disputed points which they had adverted to, and with respect to which he did not do more than declare the law. The argument of the noble Lord and of the hon. Gentleman opposite, was intended to produce an effect before a different portion of the House than was then assembled. The noble Lord had added the weight of his personal character to the opinion which he had given, that if he were on a Committee he would consider it part of his duty to open the Irish register; but the noble Lord would allow him to say, that he entertained an entirely different opinion on the law as to that point. He knew well that his opinion was not of such great weight as that of the noble Lord; but taking all the provisions of the different statutes into consideration, and allowing all due weight to the arguments adduced by hon. Gentlemen opposite, he must say, that he would, either as a Member of a Committee, or as a lawyer, state, that the Committees of that House had no power, under the Irish Statutes, to open the register. With respect also to the question of beneficial interest, he must observe, that he entertained a similar difference of opinion. It was true, that the Irish Judges, by a majority of ten to two, had held to the contrary; but he could not forget that he had with him the opinion of Judge Perrin, which was not to be slightly neglected; and of Mr. Baron Richards, which was also of some little weight; and that this was backed by the opinions of many Committees of that House, and of many eminent Members in this country; and he did believe with them, that the words "beneficial interest" introduced, instead of the well-known formula before in use in Ireland, and still in existence in England and in Scotland, and not introduced by hazard or incidentally, but after a debate, were introduced with some intention of making some difference. The old formula was used in the Emancipation Act, and it must have been intended that when that formula was thus departed from, the substitute words should have a different effect.

Mr. Sergeant Jackson

had given notice of a motion for leave to introduce a Bill on this subject, and he did consider that the opening of the register was a question which ought to be settled by law. He thought also, with regard to the beneficial interest, that the intention of the Legislature was different from the right hon. Gentleman's construction; for Mr. Justice Crampton, who was Attorney-General when the Reform Bill was introduced, was one of the ten Judges who had agreed in their judgment, and he thought that this was the best test by which to decide the animus of the Legislature. He rejoiced that the right hon. Gentleman had brought in the Bill, and he joined in the expression of the noble Lord near him (Lord Stanley), that so far as they could in that House divest themselves of party feeling, they would give the Bill a fair consideration, for the law as it then stood was intolerable.

Colonel Perceval

had only one remark to make with reference to the opinion of Mr. Baron Richards. That learned Judge, when presiding at the last assizes for the County of Sligo, had used these expressions:—"He felt great delicacy in laying down the law contrary to the opinion of ten of his learned brethren, but he was fortified by the recollection of the fact, that if he decided wrongfully a Committee of the House of Commons, he was sure, would set him right;" and he used this as a conclusive argument, that with regard to the right to open the Irish register, the opinion of Mr. Baron Richards was different from that of the right hon. and learned Gentleman.

Leave given.