HC Deb 28 April 1843 vol 68 cc1031-89

On the Order of the Day for resuming the adjourned debate from the 10th April on the second reading of the Ecclesiastical Courts bill, and, on the question that the word "now" stand part of the question,

Sir George Grey

wished to take the earliest opportunity briefly to state what was the course which he intended to take at the present stage of the bill. He entertained very strong and serious objections to portions of the bill. He thought, that it required very material modifications in its details, yet when he looked to the principle on which the bill was formed and the object which it professed to have in view,—namely, to carry into effect, with certain modifications, many recommendations of the ecclesiastical commissioners, and also to effect other alterations in the ecclesiastical law: and when he looked to the main provisions of the bill, and found that it was intended by them to abolish the inferior ecclesiastical jurisdictions scattered throughout the country, and to transfer the contentious jurisdiction exercised by those tribunals to one competent tribunal; he had no hesitation in voting for the bill in its present stage, in the earnest hope that it would be referred to a select committee, if it passed a second reading, as the only course likely to secure for a measure including such technical and professional details, that consideration which the importance of the subject demanded. He quite agreed with the right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for the Home Department in thinking that when they had so many great authorities all concurring in the recommendation to abolish inferior jurisdictions, and to transfer their power to one competent tribunal, the government was fully justified in bringing a bill before that House having that object in view. The objections, however that he entertained with respect to this bill arose from this, that while it professed to carry out the recommendations of the ecclesiastical commissioners, in some important points, it departed from those recommendations, as well as from those of other authorities to whom the greatest consideration was due, a departure from which would render the proposed change incomplete, and give the bill, if it should pass in its present form, the effect of disturbing a variety of interests, unsettling established habits, and exciting great alarm and dissatisfaction, without conferring on the public that advantage which they have a right to expect, and which if those recommendations were adopted, they would, in fact, obtain. The authorities to which he had alluded, were four in number. There was first, the ecclesiastical commissioners' report, on which the bill professed to be founded; the second was the fourth report of the real property commissioners and to which there had been no allusion whatever. That was a most elaborate report made by men of the highest distinction in their profession, who had bestowed the greatest attention on the subject. The third was the report of a committee of the House of Commons in 1833 to inquire into the Admiralty Courts, on which the right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary of State much relied. The last was the report of a committee of the House of Lords in 1836, appointed to consider the petitions presented to that House respecting the Ecclesiastical Courts Bill introduced by Lord Cottenham. All these authorities concurred in the recommendation to abolish the inferior tribunals, although the report of the House of Lords certainly recommended the retention of the diocesan courts for certain limited purposes. Now, when, the right hon. Gentleman stated that this bill was so framed as to carry into effect the recommendation of the ecclesiastical commissioners, he was compelled to differ from him. The bill, indeed, carried into effect their recommendation as to the abolition of the inferior courts; but when they came to the re-constructive parts of the bill and examined what was to be substituted for those tribunals, there was found a very material deviation from the recommendation of the ecclesiastical commissioners, as well as from that of the report of the real property commissioners. That departure was very much to be regretted, and if it were to be persisted in, the bill, he considered would confer a very trifling benefit on the country. What was the recommendation of the ecclesiastical commissioners? It was stated by them, as well as by the real property commissioners, that one great evil in the testamentary law, was the divided jurisdiction, in those leases when real and personal was devised and bequeathed. They pointed out the inconvenience which the public suffered from the jurisdiction in those cases being vested in two different courts, acting on different principles of law, with a different bar, and with different rules of practice. The ecclesiastical commissioners, after stating the fact, that From very ancient times wills of real and personal estate have been decided upon by different tribunals, the courts of common law exercising exclusive jurisdiction over all testamentary devises of real estate; the ecclesiastical courts possessing a similar power over bequests of personal estate, proceed to say, The consequence of this separation is, that the validity of wills is subjected to a different mode of trial according to the nature of the property intended to be conveyed—in a devise of land, a judge and a jury determine on vivά voce evidence—in a bequest of personality the judge of the ecclesiastical court on depositions reduced into writing. When the will purports to devise real and bequeath personal property, there may be a double trial and conflicting determinations, even though the will be duly executed according to the statute of frauds. In order to meet this evil, after recommending (page 31), That the same solemnities should be required to render valid every testamentary disposition of every description of property without any distinction, so that the same formalities of execution and attestation shall be necessary whether the testamentary instrument disposes of real or personal estate. (an alteration since made by law); they further recommend that under certain limitations, The validity of wills of real and personal estate, or either, should be determined by trial in one and the same court, and the probate made final and conclusive evidence of title to real and personal estate. The object they thought would be thus attained was, That additional security will be afforded to titles of real property and some delay, doubt, litigation, and expense avoided. He was ready to admit that they had not many instances of conflicting decisions. The commissioners state that— With respect to conflicting decisions betwen a jury and the Ecclesiastical Court, the inconvenience has been rather in theory than practice; for, during the last quarter of a century, we are aware of but one single instance in which a jury has found a verdict in opposition to the decree of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury. Indeed, with respect to other ecclesiastical courts, the occurrence is also very rare, with regard to the construction of the same instrument bequeathing personal estate. But though the conflicting decisions between these different tribunals were few, the inconvenience arising to individuals from the harass and anxiety to which they were subjected by being compelled to have recourse to two courts to establish one and the same instrument, and a title to the property taken under that instrument, was a great practical grievance. They were, to take into account, in their future legislation, not how many conflicting decisions there had been, but how many double trials the suitors were exposed to. The commissioners went on to state— That the possibility of conflicting decisions would cease, a very considerable saving of expense be effected, and uncertainty as to title to freehold estates would be diminished, by establishing one mode of proof in one and the same court. The real property commissioners, too, state— That while the same questions are cognizable, so far as may regard personal estate, by the spiritual courts, and as to other subjects by courts of law and equity, there must always be danger of conflicting decisions, with respect to the validity of one and the same instrument, or as to one and the same question, (and they add), such conflicting decisions bring the administration of justice into discredit, have the effect of unsettling the law, and create serious embarrassments in titles. They had also the opinion of a gentleman of very great experience, Mr. Tyrrell, himself, one of the real property commissioners, more in detail, in a volume he had published, entitled, Suggestions with regard to the Laws of Real Property. Mr. Tyrrell said that— While all the other rights of property are determined according to the municipal law of this country, the validity of wills of personal estate is governed by the civil or Roman law, which differs essentially from the laws of England, and is but little understood by any counsel, except the advocates in Doctors' Commons. This peculiar jurisdiction in respect to wills, is an important cause of the insecurity of titles, and one of the most frequent and oppressive sources of expense in the alienation of real property. Here, therefore, was an evil pointed out as prominent by the ecclesiastical commis- sioners, and still more strongly perhaps in the report of the real property commissioners—nor can any one doubt the existence of it. An instance of it had recently occurred in a remarkable case, the disputed will of the late Mr. Wood, of Gloucester. In that case, the will devised and bequeathed real and personal property to a large amount. The will as to the personal property was litigated in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, and carried by appeal before the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. After the question as to the personal property had been decided by the highest appeal court in such matters, pronouncing its decision on the disputed will, the successful party was still compelled to submit to further litigation, his title as to the real property under the same will being contested at the Gloucester Assizes. It is true, no trial actually took place, there was no conflicting decision, but briefs had been prepared, gentlemen of the bar had been retained, and heavy fees paid. [The Attorney-General: The cause was arranged.] The Attorney-general said the cause had been arranged—compromised. Arranged—compromised! that made the case still stronger. Here a party having the decision of the chief appellate tribunal in his favour, as to the validity of a will disposing of personal estate in the face of that decision; has his title to the real estates devised by the same will, disputed, and knowing he had the right, he was driven to a compromise rather than go into a court of law and run the chance of a conflicting decision. This proved that the evil pointed out by the reports was not an imaginary one. He had now shown that two out of the four authorities he bad referred to (and the only two which had gone fully into the subject) had pointed out the divided jurisdiction as an evil, and each had pointed out a remedy; and, though differing in the mode of carrying out the remedy, the recommendations were substantially the same, that wills of real and personal estate should be adjudicated upon by the same tribunal, administering the same law, and having a bar of the same character. The ecclesiastical commissioners recommended— That, in all cases, the validity of a will shall be tried by viva voce evidence and a jury, where any party interested may desire it, or the judge, without such application, shall think fit to direct it; and that such trial shall take place before the judge of the Ecclesiastical Court, or, if sueh judge shall think fit, or the parties shall require it, before a judge of one of the courts of common law; with such power of granting new trials by the ecclesiastical judge as is now exercised by the latter courts; and that the refusal to direct an issue with respect to any will, or the granting or refusal of a new trial, may be made a ground of appeal. The real property commissioners agreed substantially in that recommendation. They recommended that there should be but one court for the trial of wills, and that the mode of procedure and trial should in all cases be the same, but having made this recommendation, they add that they could see no difference in principle between the creation of a new court for the purpose and a transfer of the whole jurisdiction to the existing courts. They said— When two modes of innovation are proposed, the question to be tried between them must be, which offers a prospect of the best results? To us it appears that public utility will be better served by making use of the existing tribunals, than by constituting a new tribunal, or one which, though old in name, would in most of its principles and forms of practice be new; and we therefore think that the best coure will be, to transfer the whole of the contentious jurisdiction now exercised by the spiritual courts in matters testamentary to the courts of equity. He might have his own opinion as to the course which was best to be pursued. It was not now necessary to decide that. He did not wish to frighten hon. Gentlemen by the prospect of long Chancery suits; but he knew that the Court of Chancery, now exercised both an extensive and an expensive jurisdiction in the construction of wills, and he hoped to be able to show at the proper time, that by transferring the decision of these questions to the Court of Chancery, if such a course should be adopted, there would be no addition to the expense; but on the contrary, it would be materially diminished. It was no sufficient reason for departing from the recommendation of the commissioners, (as to the main point of trying wills of real and personal estate before one tribunal), that they did not agree amongst themselves as to the precise mode of carrying out their own principle; What was this except saying that where there was a difference of opinion as to the mode by which an improvement should be effected, the Legislature should on that account abstain from any attempt to remove an evil because there was not perfect una- nimity as to the details of the remedy? He came now to the third authority, the report of the committee of the House of Commons on the Admiralty Courts. The right hon. Baronet, the Secretary for the Home Department was quite right in relying upon the authority of that committee to the extent of its recommendation of the abolition of the inferior tribunals, and he (Sir G. Grey) admitted, that the committee recommended the consolidation of the Arches and Prerogative courts, and that to the court so consolidated should be transferred the testamentary jurisdiction exercised by the courts to be abolished. But that committee were clearly in error in assuming as they appear to hare done, that both the ecclesiastical and real property commissioners had agreed in the advantages of such a consolidation, without however discussing that point further. He could not suppose that they intended that that consolidation should take place for a less extensive object than that contemplated by the ecclesiastical commissioners; and when those commissioners recommended one court for the adjudication of wills relating both to real and personal property, the recommendation of the committee for the consolidation of the Arches and Prerogative courts must be held to be co-extensive. He, therefore, was entitled to rely upon the report of the committee of that House in favour of a consolidated tribunal to remedy the evils pointed out by the commissioners, by the establishment of one court for the trial of wills of real and personal estate. He now came to the fourth authority, namely, the report of the select committee of the Howe of Lords on the Admiralty Courts in 1836. That committee in their report entirely concurred in the recommendation that the inferior ecclesiastical tribunals should he abolished, subject only to this qualification, that, for the convenience of suitors, the diocesan courts should be maintained for the probate of wills of small amount, in order to save expense in having those wills proved near the homes of the parties. Now, admitting for the sake of argument, that the object was desirable, there could not be a mere clumsy and inconvenient mode of carrying it into effect. Last mar, the country had been divided into districts for the purpose of the bankruptcy jurisdiction; this Session a Local Courts Bill was before the House, which proposed to make another arbitrary division of the country into districts, With the object of bringing justice home to the doors of the people. And now by this bill, which upon this point adopted the recommendation of the Lords' committee another division of the country into diocesan districts, wholly different from either of the former, was to be perpetuated. He thought, that the House should, for general convenience, before they proceeded further, agree on some division of the country into districts for all these purposes. As an instance of the inconvenience of the diocesan districts, he would take Chichester, which was a diocese of seventy miles long. There were few places in that diocese from which London might not be sooner reached than Chichester, which was at the extreme border of the diocese, and having no railway communication with the other parts of the diocese. Winchester and Salisbury were only twenty miles apart, and Lyme Regis, which was in the diocese of Salisbury, was sixty miles from Salisbury, and only twenty-five miles from Exeter, Penzance, in the diocese of Exeter, was 100 miles from Exeter. Numerous other instances to the same effect might be given. This arrangement, therefore, would not effect the convenience of enabling suitors to prove wills at their own doors. Indeed, to many parts of the different dioceses London was more accessible than the diocesan city. And, with regard to the proof of wills, such proceedings were much oftener conducted by letter than by personal attendance; and now that the penny postage was in full operation, he should be glad to ask the right hon. Gentleman opposite whether it really made any difference to a party residing at Penzance, for instance, whether he put a letter in the post addressed to Exeter or to London. [Cheers.] He was glad to find, from the tokens of approbation which escaped the right hon. Gentleman, that he concurred with him on this point. There was only one other matter of detail to which he should now allude, and which had been strongly urged on the attention of the House in a petition which he had presented from the United Law Society. It was the maintenance by this bill of an exclusive court limited to a certain number of practitioners, and which he considered in the highest degree objectionable. This was a point which, in the future stages of this bill, must undergo full discussion. He should now content himself with quoting the authority of one whose valuable aid upon that and other occasions he greatly regretted they were de- prived of—his right hon. Friend the judge of the Admiralty Court. That right hon. Gentleman was one of the ecclesiastical commissioners who had signed the report upon which this bill professed to be founded; and in his evidence before the committee on the Admiralty Courts in 1833 he distinctly stated his opinion on this point. Dr. Lushington, in answer to Question 501, said:— I think the profession has undergone great injury from being so close a profession, and being accessible to so few persons. On this subject, I will take the liberty of saying, that I must not, though a commissioner, be considered as bound by the Ecclesiastical Reports, for it must be remembered, that, at the conclusion of those reports, we state that some diversity of opinion would unavoidably exist among us, and this was one on which my own judgment was, and is, that it would be very desirable that the whole of the common law bar should have access to the bar in Doctors' Commons. I am of opinion, that the interests of the public ought always to be consulted, and the interest of the public can never be so well consulted as when there is the freest competition, as when it is open and free to the admission of persons who ought to be admitted to practise at any bar; for I can never understand why gentlemen, who may practise in the Court of Chancery, and courts of common law, ought to be excluded from Doctors' Commons; the effect of this rule would be to shut out such persons as Lord Brougham, Sir E. Sugden, and Sir S. Romilly. The House, he was sure, would receive with attention the opinion of so high and competent an authority upon this point. His (Sir G. Grey's) conviction was, that a close examination and full discussion of this measure was required, the result of which, as he hoped would be, to introduce important alterations into the bill, before it passed into a law. It would be with great regret he should find the right hon. Gentleman oppose the motion for referring the bill to a select committee, as he despaired of obtaining for a measure so full of technical matters, that consideration in a committee of the whole House which its importance demanded. If he believed that the right hon. Gentleman would successfully oppose such a proposition, he should, however reluctantly, vote against the second reading of the bill; but as he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would reconsider his determination, and that he might be able to induce the House to adopt the amendments which he should propose, he considered himself justified in voting for the second reading of the bill.

The Attorney-General

said, that the object of the bill then before the House was to bring under one system the proceedings in ecclesiastical law, and to cause them to be adjudicated in one central court. Although at first sight it might appear that the principle of this bill was directly in opposition to that of local courts, which had been sanctioned by this House, yet he thought that, upon examination, this objection would not be found to hold to the extent some imagined. If the House would consider the mode of administration, in matters not only of equity but of common law, they would find fully borne out the principle proposed to be adopted in this bill. There was but one system of equity throughout the country, and but one jurisdiction on the subject, if he excepted only a court which sat in the county-palatine of Lancaster, and where considerable business was done in cases of injunction and other matters of no very important character. He believed that with this exception the equitable jurisdiction of this country was perfectly central, the Rolls' Court and the Vice-Chancellors' Courts being subject to appeal to the Lord Chancellor, constituting but one jurisdiction. It was true that by means of masters extraordinary, answers and depositions might be sworn in the country, so that the persons concerned in any suit might not be required to come up to London: but all the arguments in the case, and the decision upon it, took place in London. The practice in common law proceedings, it was true, was somewhat different from that in equity, but still, if examined, it would be found that the same principle of central jurisdiction prevailed in it as in the other, though not so directly and immediately. The only essential difference between the two cases arose out of the circuits of the judges, who went from time to time throughout the country to try issues. It was true also, that in various minor matters justice was administered by the magistrates of the county sitting in sessions. But with reference to every trial at assizes in the country, opportunity was afforded to any party to apply for a new trial at the courts in London, and judgment upon all such applications was given at the courts in Westminster. To carry the analogy further, in many cases writs of certiorari are available to bring up causes into the Court of Queen's Bench in the first instance. Now, assuming that this system of a general central jurisdiction in law and equity was one which worked well, he thought it could not be contended but that the system which now prevailed with regard to ecclesiastical jurisdiction, dispersed to a considerable extent through an immense number of petty local courts, was one which it was not advisable to continue. The hon. and learned Member for Oxford said that no petitions had been presented on this subject. But could it be denied that the condition of this jurisdiction had been a subject of complaint certainly since the year 1812, when, in fact, a bill was brought in for the purpose of remedying the evil so much complained of; and with respect to petitioning, after what had been stated by the right hon. Baronet opposite, it might be expected that there would not have been the number of petitions presented on this subject which would have been on any other subject of equal general interest. There were in all 372 courts of ecclesiastical jurisdiction; but they were not like other courts of law presided over by judges, or attended by barristers going from town to town, and coming eventually up to London for the purpose of assisting in correcting any errors which might have been committed in the course of their proceedings. The entire kingdom was at present divided into three provinces in regard to ecclesiastical jurisdiction, namely Canterbury, London, and York. The effect of this state of things was, that if a man died within the province of York having money in the funds, probate must be taken out in the Ecclesiastical Court of York for the purpose of disposing of his furniture and other personal effects and in that of Canterbury for the purpose of touching his funded property. The present bill would obviate the necessity for this double proceeding. The hon. and learned Member for Oxford said, that this bill was only a part of the wedge by which the church and state of this country were to be disconnected; and when the authority of the first prelate in its favour was cited, he said that these prelates were making a sacrifice which they were not entitled to make, in as much as this measure would involve the privileges and patronage of parties who were to come after them. Why, what was the case with respect to these courts? They were 372 in number. Was there a judge in one? Nothing like it. Was there a registrar in them? No. Were they attended by counsel? Far from it. Was there any means by which the public might obtain a knowledge of the jurisdiction and practice of these courts? There was not. The Ecclesiastical Commissioners with all their industry had found great difficulty in discovering to what extent their jurisdiction spread, what was its boundary, and what was its character. The titles of these Courts were various. There were the Provincial Courts, the Diocesan Courts, the Courts of Commissaries, appointed by the bishop, the Courts of the Archdeacons, and the Courts of Peculiars, some of which were archiepiscopal, some episcopal, some decanal, some subdecanal, some prebendal, and some rectorial and vicarial. The House might ask him what was the meaning of the last terms. The meaning of the terms rectorial and vicarial courts was, that there were certain parishes, being rectories or vicarages, in which the rector or vicar had the exclusive right of granting probates of wills or letters of administration. The hon. and learned member for Oxford was afraid that this bill would tend to separate the Church and State, by giving her Majesty's subjects the means of obtaining justice, for in fact all that the bill did was to let people know where they might apply with certainty to transact their business. But there were some of these courts which really had no reference to the Church or ecclesiastical authority. Some of them were courts of lords of manors, who claimed their jurisdiction under grants so ancient, that they were supposed, in the fiction of law, to have been confirmed by some act of Parliament; of these there were not less than forty-eight scattered through the country. Then there were the rectorial and vicarial courts, of which there were sixty-three. The rest of the 372 ecclesiastical courts were divided to such an extent among deans, prebends, archdeacons, and commissioners, that the archbishops and bishops had thirty-six courts only. If hon. Members would refer to schedule D., No. 6, they would be able to form an idea of the real character of these multitudinous courts, and to judge how far friends of the Church would be justified in voting for their abolition, without incurring the slightest disrespect to the venerable members of our Church, or any want of perfect loyalty and attachment to that union of Church and State which formed the key-stone of our Constitution. If they referred to the im- mediate province of Canterbury, in page 554 of the report, it was stated that there was an archdeacon's court in Bath and Wells, and his annual salary was 29l.; it had a registrar with a salary of 92l.; and a deputy-registrar with 31l.; having thirty-seven causes, 240 probates, and twenty-seven administrations in three years; that there was a sub-dean's court, with no registrar, and nothing to do; and another with no judge, no registrar, no cause, no probate, and no administrations. The House would find by going through a long detail of these particulars that there were not fewer than fifty or sixty of these courts with neither judges, registrars, causes, probates, or administrations; but they still existed, and existed as traps into which the unwary might fall. No one could tell when he was safe from committing some infringement of these petty jurisdictions. No one could be safe, but some of these judges or registrars might come to him and say, you have taken out probate in the Archbishop's court, whereas it properly came within our jurisdiction; and although there never was a case in which we could or would assert our right, we will do so now. In fact, these courts had no business, no actual jurisdiction, nothing but the barren rights. This was very strongly felt by the ecclesiastical commissioners, who had made an able report upon the subject:—They say, The peculiar jurisdictions in England and Wales, with these manorial courts, amount in number to nearly 300. These jurisdictions, as we have already stated, are of several kinds: royal peculiars; peculiars belonging to the archbishops, bishops, deans, deans and chapters, archdeacons, prebendaries and canons, and even to rectors and vicars; and there are also some of so anomalous a nature as scarcely to admit of accurate description. In some instances, these jurisdictions extend over large tracts of country, embracing many towns and parishes, as the peculiar of the Dean of Salisbury. In others, several places may be comprehended, lying at a great distance apart from each other. Again, some include only one or two parishes. The jurisdiction to be exercised in these different courts is not defined by any general law. It is often extremely difficult to ascertain over what description of causes the jurisdiction of any particular court operates; and much inconvenience results from this uncertainty. This variety of jurisdiction has proceeded from different causes, connected with the history of the Church, which it is not necessary here to specify. The peculiars were always considered (he begged the hon. and learned Member for Oxford's attention to this remark) as interfering with the beneficial exer- cise of the authority of the bishop of the diocese, and proposals have been advanced, at different times, to remove the inconvenience. It was recommended by the commissioners appointed to revise the ecclesiastical laws in the reigns of Henry 8th and Edward 6th, that the power of the bishop, in matters of discipline, should extend to all places within the diocese, notwithstanding any exemptions or privileges they might enjoy. In the reign of Queen Elizabeth a suggestion was made in convocation, or prepared for consideration there, that it should be proposed to Parliament to subject peculiar and exempt sites and jurisdictions of monasteries to the diocesan. Bishop Randolph was occupied with the same design, and made it the subject of several charges to his clergy, in the diocese of Oxford. In 1812, a bill, for the better regulation of ecclesiastical courts, was brought into Parliament by Sir W. Scott, and having passed the House of Commons, was afterwards dropped in the House of Lords. A principal clause in that bill provided, That the power of hearing and determining contested causes of ecclesiastical cognizance should be exercised only by ecclesiastical courts sitting under the immediate commission and authority of archbishops and bishops, and not by inferior or other ecclesiastical courts.' Now, was not this authority enough for the present measure? The only difference between the principles of this measure and that introduced in 1812 was that, whereas the former proposed to bring all the business of the several ecclesiastical jurisdictions into the provincial courts, the present proposed to bring all that business into one court sitting in London. No doubt this was a change from the plan formerly proposed; and he did not mean to deny that it was a fair subject for argument and discussion. He, for one, was decidedly of opinion that it would be a great improvement to put the jurisdiction in these matters upon the same footing as that of matters in equity. He would beg to read one more passage from the latter part of the commissioners' report:— It does appear wholly inconsistent with any sound principles of jurisprudence, that exclusive right of adjudicating on certain subjects should be vested in any court, and yet that court be left without the means of carrying its decrees and orders into effect. We see no reason to expect that these additional powers, so essential to the purposes of justice, will not be discreetly exercised; it is to be recollected that we proceed on the presumption that the jurisdiction of all the ecclesiastical courts, save the provincial courts of Canterbury and York, will be abolished. If more than one court were found necessary for the purpose of disposing of the public business, which, however he did not expect would be the case, it was his opinion that it was better that they should be both in London than in different districts. The hon. and learned Member for Oxford objected, that the originals of wills should not be removed from the places where they were at present deposited. But for his part he really thought that the convenience of resort, from the fact of their all being collected in London would, compensate for any objection on that ground. The hon. and learned Gentleman spoke of the danger of fire in London, but he really thought, looking at the history of Liverpool, and other places, that London was as free from this calamity as any other great city in the kingdom; and it could never be supposed that the best precautions against fire could not be adopted with a view to the safety of these documents. The hon. and learned Gentleman had also spoken of the facility which this bill would afford for persons to obtain letters of administration to the property of persons who were not dead. But such a fraud could be of no validity, as the whole proceedings would be invalid from the beginning. The whole case would be corum judice; whereas in cases of spurious wife now, a transfer of property under such ostensible sanction would be valid. The hon. Member for Chichester had referred to the case of Tatham and Wright. In this case it was true that probate had been applied for, and that a caveat had been sued out against the will—but when the executors shewed cause against it, the probate was allowed. It was true also that actions had then been brought to call in question the validity of the will, and that it had been decided that it was not a good will. But it must be obvious to all, that, as long as the courts of law were open to all the world, people would appeal against what they considered wrong decisions; and the experience of the world shewed that it would be impossible to constitute any tribunal which should be able to settle the validity of a will so as to include all purposes and questions which might arise eat of it. One person, claiming under a will, might prove it, and obtain the property, and another—the heir at law, for instance—might in another court institute a suit to show that the alleged testator was net competent to make a will, which was consequently invalid. All these who were acquainted with mercantile affairs, must be aware that precisely the same difficulties sometimes occurred in the adjudication upon ordinary commercial matters. For instance, a policy of assurance on a ship might be signed by twelve different underwriters, and, the ship being lost, if the action was not Consolidated, which there was no necessity to do, there was nothing to prevent actions being brought against each of those underwriters, which would be tried before different juries, who might give verdicts in some cases one way, in some cases the exact reverse. The same might, and did occur in regard to fire assurances. The same also of bills of exchange, all drawn, accepted, and discounted under the same terms; in one cause the jury might give a verdict for the plaintiff, and in another for the defendant, on the ground of usury or other cause of defence. In causes where a fiat of bankruptcy had been taken out against a tradesman, it was competent to any creditor to refuse to prove under the fiat, and to bring an action as if the fiat did not exist, alleging that it was a case of fraudulent bankruptcy, or that no act of bankruptcy had been committed. In short, in no branch of business, in no pursuit of life, was it possible to constitute any court, to frame any system, which should meet all the possible cases which would arise out of them, and altogether supersede the jurisdiction of some other court, if any party interested in the case thought proper to go there. These were results inherent in the principle of trial by jury, which it would be as vain as it would be unjust to attempt to exclude any man from resorting to. There was another point to which his right hon. Friend had alluded, and with respect to which he thought he had been wrong. He referred to the question of district jurisdiction. His right hon. Friend had asked why they did not split the kingdom into convenient sections, for the purpose of hearing and deciding ecclesiastical causes. But did the right hon. Gentleman intend to extend his principle to assizes? If the hon. Baronet, the Member for Oxford, was alarmed at the proposed invasion of the jurisdiction of ecclesiastical tribunals, what would the country gentlemen of England think of this newly proposed partition of the kingdom into districts! Did the right hon. Gentleman propose to re-model all the circuits and commissions of peace, and divide the kingdom into sections, without reference to boundaries and ancient usages, which in matters of the sort the people were much attached to? With respect to the Law Society, he could only say if it was the object of that society to abolish the administration of the law in Doctors' Commons, and to substitute a board of equity, he thought that a greater injury could not be inflicted upon the due administration of that branch of law than that which would be inflicted by the adoption of such a step. These courts had to do not merely with questions which occurred in time of peace, but more particularly with those likely to occur in time of war, such as questions of prize money. Was it proposed to abolish these courts altogether, or to revive them in time of war? He would say this, however, that on one point he quite agreed with the right hon. Baronet, that the bill was calculated to confer a great boon upon the community by destroying various local courts, and bringing the administration of this branch of the law under one general system. The details of the measure would tend to give the people that confidence in ecclesiastical law which they possessed in the decisions of other courts of law and equity. With respect to objections made to the details of the measure, he thought that this was not the stage of the proceedings at which they should be discussed. He was not prepared to surrender any of these details, but at the same time he considered that several of them presented fit points for discussion. But he thought that any hon. Member who would take the trouble to read the various authorities and evidence adduced upon the subject, and then say that he was still determined to keep up those 372 courts, in passive existence, ready at any time to come forth and do active mischief, was not such a friend to the pure administration of ecclesiastical law such as he should be did he propose to consider and amend the subject? The hon. Member for Oxford complained of the hardship of depriving a number of people of their labour and subsistence, but this was a mere objection of detail—it resolved itself into a question of compensation, and on the whole he thought that the House should consent to the second reading of the bill.

Lord R. Grosvenor:

I am well aware, Sir, of the difficulties which beset the path of any one who would attempt to carry through this House a bill for the purpose of effecting any very extensive measure of legal reform. I remember to have read somewhere, that great as would be the mischiefs to a community were the secrets of the confessional divulged, yet that it would be small in comparison with the evils that would arise in Great Britain and Ireland, were those secrets to be laid open which are now in the keeping of the solicitors; and it was thence inferred, that powerful as the priesthood may be considered in a Roman Catholic country, there exists a class still more powerful in this, which, when once united in the attainment of an object, would render all opposition fruitless; and, Sir, whatever may be the influence of the London solicitor upon public opinion out of doors, I think it is manifest, that in this House, at least, that of the country practitioner is far the most formidable. It seems pretty clear that these latter have set their faces against this bill, and I, therefore, augur ill of its future prospects. I beg to be understood as in no respect asserting that any blame is to be thrown upon them for so doing. The blame that I have to cast is rather upon the Government and my right hon. Friend, who knowing the reception this species of legislation was likely to experience, have proposed a bill which, while it was quite certain to excite a most formidable opposition by the extent of its enactments, has stopped short of that entire reform which would have carried out all the recommendations of the commissioners, which would at least have conciliated the good will of the London practitioners, and many Members would have been tempted to run some risks in support of a great, intelligible, and useful principle of law reform. Now, Sir, if the House will permit me, I will shortly notice the leading principles, of this measure and state the reasons why it will not be in my power to vote for the second reading. There is one principle in the bill in which I entirely concur, and that is, the abolition of ecclesiastical jurisdiction in purely civil matters, and the substitution of the royal jurisdiction; ecclesiastical jurisdiction in these matters is no part of the old law of England, it is a remnant of Papal encroachment, and I think it would be greatly to the advantage of the public were it entirely abolished, as proposed in this bill. But here my approbation of its principle ceases. I do not approve of the complete ademption of business from the local courts; and least of all do I approve of the retaining the exclusive practitioners, and all the attendant evils of Doctors Commons. It is quite impossible to justify the exclusive practice of the proctors; I have never heard any attempt at a sound reason, nor hare I ever heard it alleged that there was anything of such an alchymical nature in the forms and practice of civil or canon law, as to require the entire devotion of a man's time and faculties, in order to become cognizant of them; and only see what an appearance it has—by preserving this monopoly at Doctors' Commons you are dealing bard measures to all the snug little things in the country, whilst all the time you are seeking to perpetuate your monopoly in London. I confess I much regretted that the right hon. Baronet the Secretary for the Home Department should have thought fit to throw out a vague charge of self-interested motives against those who oppose his bill. Now, it is not a wise proceeding on the part of any Member of the House, still less a minister of the Crown, to throw out these vague charges, and I think I can show the right hon. Baronet that in this case it was peculiarly uncalled for. The right hon. Baronet must permit me to recall to his recollection, what I have already adverted to, namely, that this is not a bill for the thorough re-construction of these courts on enlightened principles—while one abuse is to be destroyed, another is to be perpetuated; and I will therefore beg his attention to a weak, and a very weak point in his case. We say, give us a case of grievance, owing to the law being administered improperly or partially; show us a list of witnesses who have given evidence of the injury that has been inflicted upon them, and the vain demands of redress; bring forward your bill which proposes to remedy these evils, and if we oppose it without at the same time suggesting an equivalent, why then charge us with obstructing a good measure of reform, for the self-interested motive of keeping up a valuable grievance; but in this case, although no doubt you collect together a very handsome row of names, recommending certain changes, where are the witnesses who allege their wrongs? where are your petitions or documents complaining of grievance? They do not exist. The right hon. Baronet may then charge us with obtuse-ness in not comprehending all the advantages of the system he proposes, but he cannot, in fairness, charge us with self-interested motives. There was also something in the tone in which the concluding remarks of the right hon. Baronet were made, which, if I rightly interpreted it, I much regret. He stated that he could not hold out any hope of the Government acceding to the wish expressed by some that this bill should be referred to a committee upstairs—that the Government had not proposed it without great consideration, and that, if the House rejected it, upon them must be the responsibility; he should have done his duty in proposing it. From this I understand the right hon. Gentleman to mean that we must have this bill or nothing. Now, I think, considering the great differences of opinion that are known to exist, both in and out of this House, upon the subject—amongst men too, who, if not of quite such high station as those, whose names have been paraded to the House by the right hon. Gentleman opposite more than once, are at least from their abilities and professional attainments entitled to the consideration of the Government, when dealing largely with individual interest, as upon the present occasion; and that, considering that there are many parts of this bill which all parties are agreed in thinking might be enacted with great benefit to the public—it is hardly becoming in the Government peremptorily to refuse to consider whether or no amendments can be admitted calculated to meet the wishes of some at least of the objectors to this bill. I the more regret the conduct of the Government on this occasion, because this is the first bill of this kind they have proposed to the House; and if this is a sample of the way in which they intend to proceed in similar cases, I quite despair of any of those legal reforms being carried out, which I am quite as anxious for as any other Member of this House. The whole system of the law of real property, if system it can be called, is a mass of inextricable confusion, daily becoming more and more difficult to unravel; it defies the most patient and laborious research of our ablest conveyancers; it is a premium upon fraud and swindling; it entails a grievous expense upon all who deal with it. Yet I would press upon the Government, that crying as the evils may be, the reforms can only be carried by degrees, and with a patient regard and attention to those complaints, many of which may undoubtedly be raised by self-interest, but some of which will be founded in fact. Above all, they ought not to attempt to force upon the House a measure, which, while it reforms many minor abuses, retains one large one, the exclusive practitioners of Doctors' Com- mons, which, is, notwithstanding what has been said by the two hon. and learned Gentlemen who I will not say are self-interested, absolutely defenceless. Sir, considering the serious objections made to the entire abolition of all the local courts, and I can most positively declare that these objections are by no means confined to interested classes, it would have been far better, even supposing all the contentious business be removed to London, to have left a register-office in each diocese, where it might be lawful to transact all the voluntary and common form business, the parties having an option to come to London if they please. The wills proved to remain in the country registries indexes to be sent up to London, penalties to be imposed upon the responsible persons for any damage arising from incursions from those ill-famed animals alluded to by my right hon. Friend in his opening, or any other, the result of negligence on the part of the keepers. Thus, when a suit upon the construction of any bequest arose, or as to the descent of real property, at the assizes, involving the production of the original will, those who make use of the local registry would be enabled to bring it into court, and save a very large expense. Had this mode of proceeding been adopted—if the local registries were of no value—then the parties having the option would go to London; but if, as we maintain, they are of very great advantage in their different neighbourhoods, we should have the opportunity of establishing the fact beyond a doubt by the use, that would be made of them; valuable local institutions would be preserved; and the various reforms in practice, upon the advantage of which all would agree, would be carried into effect. I am not one of those, Sir, who desire to see her Majesty's Court of Probate and Administration in London abolished, and the business transferred to the Court of Chancery; for, of all conceivable causes, those which imperatively demand immediate adjudication are successions in property. Assimilate the forms transferring and adjudicating the devises of real and personal property as much as you possibly can; compel all your country courts to obey implicitly the rules laid down by the superior court in London; but, for Heaven's sake, do not throw the suitors, in causes to try the validity of wills, into the already overburdened courts of equity. But, Sir, as this bill is inconsistent in principle, and proposes at once to abolish the local registries, without giving them the fair trial in a reformed state which I think they have a right to demand; and as the Government hold out no hopes of acquiescence in any of the alterations suggested; although approving entirely of the abolition of ecclesiastical jurisdiction in civil matters, and many minor provisions of the bill, it will not be in my power to vote for the second reading.

Sir James Graham

explained, that the noble Lord was mistaken in supposing that he had thrown out any disrespectful insinuations as to the motions of hon. Members who did not agree with the principles of the measure. He would add, that he considered it preferable that the bill should be discussed in the House, rather than it should be referred to a committee up stairs.

Captain Fitzroy

regretted the course which the Government had pursued with reference to this measure. He was in hopes that they would have allowed the bill to drop still-born, instead of pressing it upon the notice of the House. Although he was generally found among the supporters of her Majesty's Government, he felt it to be his duty to oppose this particular measure. He had not been canvassed by any solicitor to oppose the bill. He acted entirely upon his own judgment in the matter. He thought the measure, if carried, would inflict a great injustice upon a large number of men, without giving rise to any counterbalancing advantages. By this bill the archdeaconry of Lewes would be abolished, whilst the archdeaconry of Chichester would be retained. The latter archdeaconry was situated at the extreme end of the county, and, therefore, those who formerly would only have to go to the court at Lewes would hereafter be compelled to travel to the archdeaconry of Chichester to establish their claims. This would operate most prejudicially to many persons. They proposed to adopt the system of centralization. Before doing so, they ought to ask themselves the question whether the practice of Doctors' Commons was of so superior a character as to warrant them in abolishing at once all the local tribunals, and transferring the administration of the law to the former court? Were there not cases on record showing the grossest negligence, want of prudence, and circumspection on the part of those who were intrusted with the administration of the law in Doctors' Commons. He contended that there would be in centralization no greater economy than in the system which had for centuries prevailed; for example, at Lincoln charges which amounted to only 71. 14s. 6d., became for the same thing a sum of 161. 15s. in the Prerogative Court; and he believed it would, upon examination, be found, that in the transaction of business as little was gained in time as there was in the matter of economy. It was not immaterial to observe, that the only authority in favour of the present measure which could be adduced with any effect was the recommendation of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. They, it was true, recommended the abolition of the courts, but what was the state of the facts respecting that proposed abolition? At the time the report was made up as many as four of the bishops upon that commission were absent from London. These were the Bishops of Lincoln, of Durham, of St. Asaph, and of Bangor. Two of those right rev. prelates signed the report with a strong protest against the clause which recommended the abolition of those courts. In the course of the present discussion it had been said, that it was highly desirable to have all wills deposited in London, on account of the frequent necessity that there existed for the production of those documents in the Court of Chancery. Now, there was no one acquainted with the practice of that court who did not know that the production of original wills there was by no means frequent, whereas the reverse was the case in the assize courts; therefore, they ought to be kept in the locality where they were most frequently needed, There was another subject to which he wished to call the attention of the House, and that was the compensation proposed to be given to the registrars. It was understood that compensation was not to be given to any persons appointed since the year 1836; it must, however, be recollected, that many deputy-registrars who had been efficient officers for many years before 1836 had received the appointment of registrars in chief within the last seven years. Now, it appeared to him, that nothing could be more unjust than to deprive those persons of their employments and give them no compensation. As this bill, then, would inflict great injury on several individuals, and as it did not, in his opinion, offer any counter- vailing advantage, he should give it his decided opposition.

Mr. Newdigate

Mr. Speaker, it is with grief, it is with regret, that I find myself, for the first time, upon my legs in the House of Commons to oppose her Majesty's Government, particularly on this subject, in which I am personally interested. I should have been glad to have remained silent; but since I believe, that I am the only owner of a peculiar at present in his place; and since some misunderstanding seems to have arisen out of what fell from the right hon. Baronet the Secretary for the Home Department when this subject was last under consideration—and since some hon. Members think that, the expressions used by the right hon. Baronet implied, that certain hon. Members were influenced by private interests in their opposition to this measure—I feel bound to explain the motives which actuate me on this occasion. Individually, I do complain, that the effect of this measure, if carried, will be a direct violation of property as strictly my own as the house I live in; which was re-granted by the Crown in the reign of Henry the 8th at the exact period when the right hon. Gentleman the Attorney-general has stated, that complaints were first publicly made against the peculiar jurisdictions." But 'Gentlemen" (Sir, I beg to apologise if from being unaccustomed to speak in such a place as this, I have made use of an improper mode of expression)—but, Sir, I beg to state, that I object to this measure on public grounds far more important than those I have alluded to. I object to this measure as a part of that system of centralization, of which we have had far too much in our legislation of late years, a system essentially democratic. Sir, if I stated this on my own authority, God knows, that would be light enough, but I state, that it is so, on the authority of M. Guizot, as declared in his writings on the life of Washington, The fact that the tendency of this measure is democratic, might recommend it to some hon. Members opposite; but I yet think, that it is too arbitrary to meet their approval. There are other reasons on account of which, I disapprove this measure. I believe that it will subject the public to serious inconvenience and expense, for even supposing, that the charges of the central court as proposed in this bill, should be somewhat lower than those of the local courts. If you add to these the cost of the journies to London, which parties having testimentary business in the country will be compelled to undertake; or if in lieu, you add the cost of their acting by letters of attorney or some other means equivalent to them, which they cannot avoid, I much doubt the practical economy of this measure. Sir, I have spoken totally unprepared, but I do beg to say, that if I oppose the second reading of this bill, I do so as the representative of North Warwickshire, not as the sole ordinary of the peculiar of Harefield.

Sir G. Strickland

said, that as a magistrate he could speak to the great grievances to which the ecclesiastical courts as at present constituted gave rise. If two persons in a country town fell out and used bad language to each other, one of them, if connected with an attorney, might be induced to make application to the ecclesiastical court, a process issued, and this was followed by a citation. Poor people understood nothing of these things and did not know when they should put in an appearence, or what was meant by such a proceeding. In a short time, however, their pigs, their cows, and their furniture were sold, under an order of the court. He greatly regretted that the worst part of the jurisdiction was to be preserved. This was a species of reform with which the people would not be satisfied. He must oppose the second reading of the bill.

Mr. Collett

approached the discussion of this bill with diffidence, arising from a consciousness of his inability to grapple successfully with the intricacies of the question: but he owed a duty to his constituents, and he trusted that the House would be indulgent to him whilst he endeavoured briefly to discharge that duty. The disadvantages, under which he laboured were increased by the impossibility of offering any original observation after the able speeches which had already been delivered. He opposed the measure as being uncalled for, insulting, and unjust—uncalled for, as no general complaints had been made by the people, nor petitions presented, for an alteration of either the law or the system—insulting, as assuming by clause 71, that the country proctors connive at fraud and perjury—and unjust, as it robbed one class of practitioners for the profit of another, and removed justice from the poor man's door. The most objectionable feature in the bill was that principle of centralization which it was too much the fashion of the day to advocate upon all occasions; but, as a well-written periodical tersely remarked, that— Although France may be Paris and Paris France, yet London is not yet England nor England London, whilst we have in our provinces those local institutions as ancient as they are wise and national. He believed that he could assert upon good authority that the ecclesiastical commissioners' report, upon which this bill was said to be founded, had been altered in an unwarrantable manner; but, whether that was the case or not, the measure had been framed in direct opposition to the expressed opinions of many of the highest dignitaries of the Church, and without due inquiry into the working of the present system. The present mode must necessarily be more convenient and economical to the public than the one proposed, as all business done by deputy entailed increased expenditure. The principle of the first clause, viz.,—the abolition of courts inferior to the diocesan, and every place to form part of the province where situate, was unobjectionable, and also that a reasonable number of county courts say one testamentary court in each county, be allowed; but a reduction from 400 to 28 was of too sweeping a character to meet with his concurrence. If these county courts did so bad, why was it proposed to impair them, rather than improve them, leaving all the brawling and defamation cases to be decided there, not by gentlemen, but by inferior attornies at 200l.per annum? It appeared singular to him that this measure had been introduced at a time when it was confidently hoped that the numerous decisions on the act of Parliament passed for the amendment of the law of wills would produce uniformity of practice. Why limit the practice of the country proctors to the proving of wills under 300l.? Already the metropolis swallowed up more than two-fifths of the entire business, and more than three-fifths of wills above 300l., for in the year 1841 2,915 wills out of 6,821 were proved in London. He trusted that the hon. and learned Member for Cardiff would, upon reconsideration, announce this measure to be an open question, as was the case in May 1834, when the Ministerial bill for a general register on wills was defeated by a large majority, 45 having been for it and against it 161. If the contrary, he should be obliged with deep regret to vote against a Government to which he generally gave his hearty and independent support, and whose management of the affairs of this mighty empire was deserving of the highest eulogy. He must thank the House for the indulgence shown to him, and, in conclusion, express his decided opinion that this attempt to deprive the public of the convenience of their local courts was an infringement of those inalienable rights which a long succession of ages had consecrated, and for that reason he gave his cordial opposition to the second reading of this bill.

Mr. Elphinstone said

, although I am ready to admit that many serious objections do exist with regard to certain clauses of this bill, yet, taking it as a whole, I shall vote for the second reading, because, after attentively considering the more important clauses, namely, those which relate to the proving of wills and to the granting of administrations, I am firmly convinced that if the principle on which they are founded be fairly and honestly carried into operation, the government will confer a considerable benefit on the public, and effect a real and substantial improvement in the administration of justice. Now, I understand the principle of these clauses to be, the utter and entire removal of all matters relating to wills from the jurisdiction of the Ecclesiastical authorities, and the placing them, for the future, under the control and authority of a new lay court, of which the judge is to be appointed by the responsible advisers of the Crown. I, for one, am of opinion that this will be a most desirable improvement in the law; for I think I shall have no difficulty in showing to the House that the best interests of the public are seriously injured by their having these matters—which do not in any way relate either to the discipline or the doctrines of the Church of England—adjudicated upon by the judges and registrars of ecclesiastical courts, a class of persons who, I must say, have generally been placed in their present situations neither on account of their knowledge of the law nor of their judicial fitness for the office which they hold. In regard to wills and administration, whatever may be said to the contrary by interested parties, the interests of the public require that one efficient court should be established in London, with a proper registry attached to it, where wills can be properly proved, and where they may afterwards be pro- perly preserved and taken care of, and where every facility could be given to the public for making searches. It ought to be understood by the House, that the granting probate of a will is not, as is sometimes supposed, the mere registration of the document; but in point of fact (wherever the business is properly conducted), involves an attentive examination and perusal of the whole will, in order that it may be ascertained that the laws relating to wills have been properly complied with. I need hardly say, of necessity, that this requires considerable legal knowledge and attainments on the part both of the judge and registrar. I may mention a case which came to my knowledge only yesterday. A gentleman of the name of Leigh died lately, leaving 100,000l. in Chester, and 60,000l. in the jurisdiction of the province of Canterbury. The executors took the will and (seven) codicils to the Chester registry, where probate was granted of all the documents. When the executors brought the same documents to the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, it was at once discovered that the last codicil revoked five others, so that probate ought only to have been granted at Chester of the will and two codicils. If this mistake had not been detected at the Prerogative-office in Doctors' Commons, the executors might have paid large legacies to persons in no way entitled to them. It is scarcely possible to conceive a worse system than exists at present; for while, in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, and in perhaps two or three of the bishops' courts, the business is exceedingly well conducted, there are no less than 372 inefficient courts scattered in every part of the country, which exercise jurisdiction over the right of succession to personal property. Of the 24,000 or 25,000 probates of wills of administration that are annually granted, only about one-half are proved in the Prerogative Court, so that the remaining half are under the jurisdiction of courts which I do not hesitate to say, are utterly unfit for the duties assigned to them; nearly 42,000,000l. of property passes through these courts annually, so that the House may judge of what importance it is that the business should be properly conducted. Most of these country courts derive their authority from the most superstitious ages of the Church; others from lords and ladies of manors, and some few from the Crown, but they all differ in their practice and in their regulations, excepting that of extracting large fees from the public; and in the greater part of these courts neither the judge nor the registrar have any knowledge of the law, and are consequently incapable of performing their duty with advantage to the public; they are usually unattended either by council or solicitor to watch or control their proceedings, and the consequence is that the greatest injustice is frequently committed, and blunders of all sorts are continually occurring, and properly is frequently transferred to persons who, by the law of England, have no right whatever to succeed to it. Now, Sir, I state these facts to the House, not only from my own observation, but on the authority of every competent person who has paid any attention to the subject. A commission was issued by the Crown, in 1831, to inquire into the state of the Ecclesiastical courts; this commission consisted of the two archbishops, several bishops, and Lord Ten-terden, Lord Wynford, Chief Justice Tindal, Sir C. Robinson, Dr. Lushington, and Mr. Cutler Ferguson; all these learned individuals came, in 1832, to an unanimous report condemnatory of the present system. I will merely read an extract from the report relating to the peculiar and diocesan courts:— With respect to the contentious jurisdiction, it is wholly impossible that justice can be administered efficiently, and with satisfaction to the public. In the majority of the peculiar courts, and, perhaps, in all, there neither are nor can be efficient and experienced judges, officers, advocates, or practitioners. The emoluments are too small, and the number of causes too few, to ensure these requisites for the due administration of justice. Consequently no confidence is placed in these tribunals; and delay arises and expence is incurred, in applying for letters of request, or in resorting to other means of escaping the jurisdiction. In some cases, too, the grievance is enhanced by the multiplication of appeals. With regard to testamentary cases, the inconvenience is, perhaps, the" greatest. There cannot be expected, and, in fact, there are not to be found, safe places of custody for the wills to be deposited in the registries, and thereby the most important titles to real and personal estate may be endangered. In admitting testamentary papers to probate in common form, according to the existing state of the law, an accurate knowledge of the rules which ought to govern the practice is very essential; but where the opportunities of acquiring experience are few, such accuracy cannot be at- tained. In cases where it is necessasy to make searches, the multiplication of courts for the probate of wills of course greatly increases the trouble and expence. On the question of bona notabilia, many difficulties result from these searches, and sometimes more serious injury. It would be easy to set forth many other reasons inducing us to suggest the entire abolition of these jurisdictions; but, as we are not aware of any one benefit which would result from their continuance, we conceive that the circumstances already stated will suffice." "In the course of our inquiry we became early convinced of the impracticability of having judges duly qualified, together with a competent bar and skilful practitioners, to administer in the diocesan courts the testamentary and matrimonial laws, which involve matters of such very high importance to the parties litigant, and to the public. The returns which have been obtained from the diocesan registries, show that the annual amount of business and the emoluments of the judges and other officers, and of the practitioners in these courts, make it impossible, in the greater number of dioceses, that efficient courts can be maintained. This is a defect which, if it cannot be removed, outweighs all the advantages that may sometimes attend the exercise of episcopal jurisdiction within the local limits of the respective dioceses. In 1833 a commission was also issued to inquire into the state of the law relating to real property: that commission consisted of Lord Campbell, Mr. Tinney, Mr. Duval, Mr. Duckworth, Mr. Brodie, and Mr. Tyrell. Although that commission proposed a different remedy from that proposed in the present bill—although they proposed to transfer all jurisdiction over wills to the already overburdened and expensive jurisdiction of the Court of Chancery—yet they unanimously agreed in condemning the present system. These commissioners, in their fourth report, stated— Serious evils are occasioned by the existence of the numerous jurisdictions which we have described, in addition to the inconvenience arising from the frequent necessity of obtaining several probates of the same will. The number of the courts, and the extent of the jurisdiction of many of them, cannot be ascertained; the right to some is contested between superior and inferior, and between spiritual and lay parties. Many of them have not hesitated to grant probate of any wills which have been brought to them, without troubling themselves to inquire whether they were usurping a jurisdiction which did not belong to them. There is no uniformity in the practice or rules by which the various courts are governed Many of them are without competent judges and officers for the due administration of justice, and few have secure places for the custody of the important documents which they compel par-ties to deposit, and in many of them such documents have not been preserved, except within a late period. The numerous jurisdictions, and the difficulties occasioned by them, are one of the causes of delay and expense in the transfer of real property. The evils arising from the existence of courts of probate, so numerous and so variously constituted, are, we believe, admitted by all who have considered the subject. Even those who are the most disposed to attach value to the system of probate, agree in wishing to diminish very greatly the number of the courts, and to remove many anomalies in their proceedings, and of late it has become the prevailing opinion that, if the system is to be retained, there should exist only one court of probate for the whole of England and Wales. The continuance of the diocesan courts has been advocated on account of the facility thereby afforded to persons resident in different parts of the country who may wish to see the wills of their relations. Upon the whole, however, we believe it would be found that greater general convenience would be obtained by the abolition of all district jurisdictions whatsoever. The present dioceses are very irregular in size and shape; some of them extend into several counties, and in others there are some parishes at a great distance from the cathedra]; so that most of the reasons stated in our second report for preferring a metropolitan register of deeds to county registers would apply, and perhaps even still more strongly against the continuance of diocesan jurisdictions. And in the valuable appendix to that report by Mr. Gale, I find that that gentleman says, when speaking of the peculiar and diocesan courts, Several of these courts are in a state of anarchy. In one, because the judge (the perpetual vicar) is beyond the seas, all business is suspended till his return; in another there is not any business transacted, because of the disability of the lord of the manor; and another because the chief estate is in Chancery; in a fourth, the judge avoids, a far as possible, all occasions of exercising his jurisdiction, though he has accepted the office. His peculiar is a 'lawless place,' and he knows of neither limit to, nor remedy for, his fees, nor of table or precedent. One of the late Parliamentary returns on ecclesiastical courts furnishes copies of the patent appointments in two dioceses, Norwich and Lincoln, which are probably a fair average sample of the whole. It therein appears, that in Norwich archdeaconry, a major-general, a son of the bishop, and his (the major-general's) son, both extra diocesan residents, are successive patentees for life of the office of commissary's register; and a rev, son of the bishop, archdeacon, and, by patent for life, commissary; and a son of this archdeacon and commissary patentee in succession of the office of registrar of the archdeacon's official. In Sudbury archdeaconry, a grandson of the bishop is patentee for life in succession of the office of registrar; and in Suffolk archdeaconry, another son of the bishop is patentee for life in succession of the office of commissary's register, an archdeacon of Sudbury, and his only son and his nephew are successive patent official registrars for life. A chancellor of Norwich, and an official of Norfolk archdeaconry, are of the same name, and probably the same person; a brevet lieutenant-colonel in his Majesty's service, of the same family, is patentee in succession of the office of Sudbury registrar; and another individual of the same family, in the several patent offices of official, and of registrar of Norwich archdeaconry; and persons of the same family are in the patent offices of the Suffolk commissary's registrar and the Suffolk official's registrar. In Lincoln diocese, one of the sons of a late bishop is archdeacon, and another of his sons registrar of the commissary of Buck's archdeaconry. Two persons of the bishop's name hold the patent offices of commissary's registrars of Leicester archdeaconry, of registrars of Lincoln archdeaconry, and of commissary's registrars of Stow archdeaconry. One of the bishop's grandsons is patent official, and two of his sons are patent registrars of Lincoln archdeaconry. The same rev, gentleman is patent official and patent commissary of Bedford archdeaconry, and patent commissary of Huntingdon archdeaconry. The archdeacon of Bucks appointed his son and two of his grandsons his successive registrars. The archdeacon of Huntingdon appointed a patent official of his own name, The same three persons are patent registrars and patent commissary's registrars of Huntingdon archdeaconry, and one of the said three persons is patent commissary of Leicester archdeaconry. A committee of this House also sat in 1833 on the Court of Admiralty, when a decided condemnation was expressed of the present system. If the House required further confirmation of the evils of the existing system, I would only refer them to the law reports of the superior ecclesiastical courts in London, in almost every page of which they will find the statements I have now made confirmed. Now I roust say, that this is a state of things which requires an immediate remedy. I think the bill now before the House may he considered as a great and desirable step in the right direction, towards an effectual improvement of the present system. But while I give every credit to the Government for the main provisions of this part of the bill, I must say that in my opinion a very great mistake has been committed in exempting property under 300l. from its operation. In fact, I am totally at a loss to understand on what public grounds of expediency this exception has been made. The only reason that I can guess at is, that my right hon. Friend has been induced to make this proposal with the view of conciliating certain interested parties in the cathedral towns; but while the Legislature would be making a good bill for the rich man, they would be make a bad bill for the poor. In point of fact, the poor man would be placed in a worse situation than he was before; for while the will of a rich man would be transferred to a good court, the will of the poor man would not only be left in a bad court, but it would be left under the jurisdiction of courts which will gradually become worse than they are now, because there would be less business transacted in them, and, consequently, the registrar and other officers would have less experience than at present. If any difference is to be made between the rich and the poor, it will be far better for the interests of the poor man that his will should receive probate in London, where his interest could be protected by the vigilant eye of an experienced judge; and that the will of the rich man should be left to the county courts, as the interests of the rich could be protected by the expense of counsel. The House ought to recollect that the proper distribution of the hard earnings of the working classes is of as much consequence to their humble relatives, as the distribution of a large funded property to the relations of a wealthy banker. No one knows better than my learned Friend (Dr. Nicholl), that the amount of property disposed of in a will affords no criterion whatever of the amount of legal knowledge required to determine on its validity or invalidity; blunders and mistakes occur much more frequently in the wills of a small than in those of a large amount of property. It appears by a return now on the Table, that out of 21,937 stamps which are sold annually, no less than 5,318 are sold in the country for properties under 300l.; this return of 5,318 stamps under 300l. shows clearly the large number of wills which might be negligently and improperly proved if these clauses remain in the bill. I sincerely trust that on reconsideration the Government will consent to strike these clauses out of the bill, and follow the report of the commissioners who have made no such exception; at any rate, when the bill is in committee, I shall take the sense of the committee on the propriety of omitting this very objectionable provision. There is another point, however, which I am sorry to see omitted in this bill. I find no mention of wills of reality. The House is probably aware, that under the present law, wills of realty do not now require to be proved; the consequence of this is, that many imperfect documents are now locked up in the muniment rooms of landed proprietors, and which cause, at a future time, great trouble and expense in proving the titles to estates. A clause to meet this defect in the law was inserted in Lord Cottenham's bill of 1836. I think a similar clause might be inserted in the present bill. The same number of witnesses, and the same ceremonies, are now required for wills both of personalty and realty, and I therefore think that the same court which grants probate of a will of personalty, ought to grant probate of a will of realty. Sir, I have now expressed my opinion on that part of the bill which relates to wills, subject to the alterations I have suggested. I am convinced it will have a beneficial effect. I regret I cannot speak so favourably of the remainder of the bill. In the first place, I think the labour might be more evenly divided between the two judges at Doctors' Commons, with great advantage to the public interests. There will always be two civil law judges at Doctors' Commons, namely, the Judge of the Arches and the Judge of the Admiralty, selected from the bar of civilians on account of their legal attainments; and our object ought to be to divide the business as equally as may be between these two learned personages. Now there are four distinct classes of cases which come into litigation before the civil law courts—first, Admiralty cases; second, ecclesiastical, (strictly so speaking) cases; third, wills and administrations; and, fourth, matrimonial suits. It appears to me that one of these judges might take the Admiralty and matrimonial causes, and the other wills and ecclesiastical matters. By this arrangement each judge (i.e.,) Judge of Admiralty and Judge of Arches) would have about the same quantity of work, and you would have at the head of each court judges in whom the bar and the public could confide. It appears to me that the plan which is proposed in this bill, of making the vicar-general in each province the legal assessor of the archbishop, or rather, the supreme judge in ecclesiastical matters, is most objectionable in every point of view. I beg also to observe, that this formed no part of the plan of the bill which was introduced by Lord Cottenham, and which bill has been praised by so many Members on various occasions. Now if I understand the bill now before the House correctly, it is proposed that all matters under the Church Discipline Act relating to the punishment of the clergy for any offences they may be guilty of in respect to ecclesiastical matters, is in the first instance to be tried by the chancellor of each diocese. If proper chancellors are appointed, and if the bishops are compelled to appoint persons with a competent knowledge of the civil and cation law, I should have no objection to this part of the arrangement, but then the right hon. Gentleman proposes that the appeal from the chancellor is to the archbishop and his vicar-general. Now from this I totally and entirely dissent; there cannot be the least necessity for converting a vicar-general into a superior ecclesiastical judge. The appeal ought to be to one of the civil law judges in Doctors' Commons, who must always have great professional experience in the ecclesiastical laws. A vicar-general was or ought to be the legal adviser of an archbishop, in fact a sort of Attorney-general to an archbishop; and it appears to me to be contrary to every principle of justice that any individual (however eminent his talents may be) should one day be advising a prosecution and on the next day be sitting as judge in the very case in which he had advised further proceedings. In my opinion, the vicar-general ought always to be an advocate in practice at the bar; but if an advocate in full practice is to be made a supreme judge while he remains at the bar, parties would, of course, take means to ascertain his opinion, by submitting a case before the trial came on. I also think (though pecuniary matters are of secondary consideration) that the expense of vicar-generals might be materially diminished, and that we might obtain for 1,000l. per annum a perfectly qualified advocate to hold the united office of Master of the Faculties and vicar-general, provided the vicar- general is only to be a legal adviser and not a supreme judge. I think I may venture to say, that this is the opinion of almost every member of the bar at Doctors' Commons with whom I have conversed on the subject. I hope my right hon. Friend will re-consider this part of the bill. I cannot help also suggesting, that it would be far more convenient if this bill were divided into four smaller bills—one bill for wills and administrations, one bill for suits relating to matrimony, one bill for suits relating to ecclesiastical matters, and a fourth bill for the salaries of the judges and other officers, and for compensation to such officers as were abolished. This course was adopted when the Admiralty Court was reformed, and I think it would be an excellent precedent on the present occasion. However, Sir, there is so much that is good in the present bill, that, knowing the great abuses that now exist, and feeling how difficult it is to alter any institutions where so many parties are interested in their continuance, I shall cheerfully vote for the second reading, being well persuaded that if this bill is carried, even in its present imperfect state, it would confer great benefit on all classes of the community.

Mr. Escott

remarked that the hon. Member who had just resumed his seat, and the right hon. Member for Devon-port, were the only members on the opposition side of the House who had yet declared their intention to vote for the second reading of the bill. At the same time, they had urged such various and important objections against the measure, that if he wanted any reasons for opposing the second reading of the bill, he need not seek for them further than in their speeches. He, however, required no additional arguments to convince him of the propriety of opposing the bill; upon that point he had already, on consideration, made up his mind. The House had been told, on the part of the Government, that the bill must be passed as it stood; that no alterations would be allowed to be made in committee [expressions of dissent]. He would willingly correct himself if he were wrong; but he would be glad to hear what alterations were to be made by the Government. No projected alterations had been announced, and, therefore, it was the duty of the House to take the bill as they found it, and to determine for themselves whether good or evil predominated in it. If they thought evil was predominant let them reject the measure at once; if good, they ought to vote for the second reading. He fully admitted that the greatest necessity existed for a reform of the Ecclesiastical Courts; and one reason why he opposed the present bill was that he considered it an inadequate measure of reform; that, in fact, under the name of reform, it would increase the acknowledged evil tenfold. The hon. and learned Member then read some extracts to prove that the officers in the provincial courts discharged their duties efficiently, and referred particularly to the case of one gentleman whom he knew, and who, he said, was an attorney, and a proctor, but an honest man. If, without effecting any public advantage, the House should proceed to spoliate and rob respectable men like those, they might depend upon it their conduct would be visited upon them hereafter [cheers]. He knew the meaning of that cheer; it was a repetition of the taunt thrown out on a former night by the right hon. Baronet the Secretary for the Home Department, that some Members were afraid of opposing the bill, lest by so doing they should suffer in their elections. For his part, he denied being actuated by any such motives; and he ventured to say that there had been nothing in his public career to justify such a suspicion. Much of the evidence given before the commissioners, was of a very loose character; for instance, Lord Campbell gave it as his opinion that it was easier for a man to travel up to London from the extremity of the kingdom, than to go to the next market town; and this monstrous proposition was gravely recorded. He should like to see Lord Campbell with a pair of heavy nailed shoes on his feet, trudging up to London as many a poor man would be obliged to do if this bill should pass into a law. If those who opposed the bill could be charged with being influenced by selfish motives, the charge might be retorted on those who supported it. No one who knew the judge-advocate could for a moment believe that he had other objects in view, but the public benefit; but ill-natured persons would not fail to remark that this bill placed a great number of valuable offices at the disposal of the principal judge in the ecclesiastical courts. He believed that three out of the four bishops, whose signatures were attached to the report of the commission were opposed to the objectionable clauses of the bill. True, there remains the signature of the Archbishop of Canterbury, whom every one revered; but the House were at liberty to consider the grounds on which the most rev. Prelate had given his sanction to the report. He did not attach much value to signatures, for within the last few days he had seen the signatures of two eminent legal functionaries attached to a document which authorised the exaction of fees from poor persons, in direct violation of the first principles of law and justice. In conclusion, he denounced the measure as another illustration of the vulgar practice which had prevailed during the last ten years of pointing the finger at an abuse, and then proposing some change, and calling that reform.

Mr. G. H. Vernon

It would be much more agreeable to my feelings to give a silent vote on this question, but filling the situation of Judge of the Ecclesiastical Court of York, I must not shrink from the duty of declaring publicly the opinions which are the result of long experience on this subject. It may become necessary in the course of that discussion that I should make statements which may cause annoyance to persons whom I should be unwilling to wound, and the support which I must give to the principle of this bill will affect the interest of many individuals whom I should be loath to injure. I trust that every care will be taken in the progress of the bill to avert or mitigate such apprehended injuries; but I know that my duty here is to consult for the benefit of the public, with due care indeed to deal justly by individual claims for compensation, but not with paramount regard for private interest. I have intimated that it would be especially painful to me to disclose the evils of a system against which it might seem invidious that I should bear testimony inasmuch as they arc "Qu™que ipse miserrima vidi. Et quorum pars magna Jul." Yet had it been consistent with my conscience, and my duty as a Member of Parliament to attempt to dissemble on this subject with the House, it would have been impossible, for I was examined on oath before the Ecclesiastical Commission, and I was afterwards a witness before the committee of this House in 1833. In giving my testimony on the present occasion, I have at least one satisfaction, namely, that I am exempt from any personal interest in the conclusion at which I shall arrive. My interest is indeed rather against that conclusion. I hare discharged the duties of my office, which is a patent office for upwards of twenty-three years. All the measures which have been framed or proposed in respect to the modification or extinction of that office hare provided full compensation on my behalf, as is the invariable practice of Parliament in relation to such vested interests. Nevertheless the present bill would deprive me of a large amount of patronage, which has furnished me opportunities of conferring essential favours upon many of the clergy. It is true that I have made a point of selecting for the office of Surrogate those among them who were best calculated by their locality and personal fitness to serve the public usefully. Yet I shall feel much regret at the loss of the gratification afforded me in those appointments, and if this measure shall deprive those surrogates of the emoluments which they now derive from that source, they will have my sincere sympathy. I have made these remarks on the point of personal interest, because the Member for Winchester has thrown out some intimations, that motives of a pecuniary nature may influence the supporters of this bill. After the clear statement made on this head by my right hon. Friend the Judge Advocate, when he brought in the bill, in the judgment of every one who recollects it, such shafts will fall pointless when levelled against him. The bill proposes a less salary for the judge of the Court of York than that which I now enjoy. I was not consulted in the framing of the bill, or of fixing that salary, perhaps I should have suggested a smaller amount as adequate to the future duties proposed to be allotted to that functionary, but personally, as I hare intimated already, I should be satisfied with such compensation, as may in accordance with custom in such cases be allotted to me by Parliament, although it is inevitable that by any such change I must suffer some pecuniary loss. I will now address myself to the question which was propounded on a former evening by my hon. Friend the Member for the University of Oxford, where are the grievances, or who the complainants against the present system of Ecclesiastical tribunals? My reply is to show him this ponderous volume, the report of the commission. He only received it on the day on which he asked that question, he has now had a fortnight of leisure to digest its contents, and he must have seen the concurring testimony of that host of witnesses to the manifold uncertainties, vexations and mischiefs under which the public labours from the defective condition of those tribunals. He says that there are 9,000 petitioners against the bill, that the same influential parties who have procured those signatures had an equal interest in bringing forward those who within their own knowledge are aggrieved by the present state of the law, they would have soon amounted not to 9,000 only, but to 999,000. Let us examine some of the grievances explained to the commissioners, not by interested witnesses, but by provincial judges and archdeacons and registrars and solicitors; in short by the very class to whom the Members for the University of Oxford, for Lincoln and for Chester, now bid us listen with favour. Look at the testimony of Mr. Chancellor Martin, of whom the hon. Member for Winchester speaks in terms of eulogium which I gladly echo; I must, however, be permitted to say in passing that he is not entitled to vouch his evidence so absolutely on behalf of his opposition to this bill; because I have talked with him on the subject since he has seen this bill, and he informed me that subsequent experience had considerably modified the opinions which he expressed before the commission, and I did understand him to be not unfavourable to the general principle of this bill. I select the diocese of Exeter for the attention of the House, because both the magnitude of the jurisdiction and the ability brought to the conduct of it by Mr. Martin, render it confessedly one of the least exceptionable of the diocesan tribunals. Look at the two first pages of his evidence. I will not weary the House by reading even extracts from it, but it will be seen that in that diocese there are thirty-six parishes called bishops peculiars, which have the singular peculiarity of being exempt from the jurisdiction not only of the archdeacon, but of the Bishop himself. Then there are as many more peculiars of the dean and prebendaries, or of the archdeacon. These are scattered in different parts of Devonshire and Cornwall. No certainty exists as to the conflicting rights of jurisdiction in these districts. The Bishop, the Chancellor, the Dean and the other subordinate ecclesiastical functionaries had attempted about two centuries ago to settle by agreement the limits of their respective rights, but lately a cause which had been commenced in one of these minor courts came up by final appeal to the Court of Arches, and there it was pronounced that all which had been done was invalid, the agreement was treated as without authority, and the limits of those jurisdictions remain undefined and undefineable. This is only a specimen of the uncertainty, which prevails throughout the kingdom, and it is not a grievance confined to the few cases in which all the expense of a suit may have been incurred in vain owing to confusion of jurisdictions, because there are many more cases in which justice is practically denied to suitors from ignorance how they can effectually proceed, and others in which parties avail themselves of flaws in probates, or in processes to set up dishonest defence. I have yesterday been deciding some cases in my court at York which may furnish some illustration of the evil to which parties are exposed by the multifarious complexity of existing jurisdictions. I reversed a sentence of the Court of Chester which had pronounced a will invalid, I may have decided right, or I may have decided wrong, but in either case it has been a grievance to the parties that they have necessarily incurred the double expense of the trial at Chester, and at York before they can obtain the opinion of the final Court of Appeal in London, but whether my judgment were right on the main question or not, I am certain that the proceedings resorted to by the practitioners in the Court of Chester in this cause were most irregular and reprehensible, and such as would never occur in a tribunal sufficiently conversant with its business. I have had reason to complain not so much of the decisions of the Judge of the inferior courts which have come before me on appeal as of the great irregularity and ignorance of legal principles manifested by those who conduct the cases in their progressive steps. There are at York regular advocates and a competent number of regularly trained proctors, and I have every reason to speak with kindness and gratitude of their integrity and merit, but it is usual elsewhere to transact the business through the medium of attornies, who have rarely occasion to practise in that line, and who have no chance of conducting the processes with tolerable correctness, except by deriving their direction at every step from communication with Doctors' Commons. Now when causes thus irregularly started arrive at the stage of sentence, the dilemma often occurs to me of having to decide against strict law, or against justice. Were my judgments recorded by reporters in books which might eventually be quoted as precedents, I should feel much embarrassment, least by overlooking grave errors in form 1 should encourage future laxity of practice, but filling perhaps rather the position of an arbitrator, or of an equitable judge, I have succeeded generally, I hope, in discharging my functions for the true advantage and in vindication of the real rights of the parties, better thus than by a more pedantic adherence to rigid rules; and I have been greatly aided in this course by the kind confidence of the practitioners of my court; but this is an unfit state of law, and involves much pain and sense of personal responsibility to the judge, and inevitable uncertainty to the suitors. In another case which came before me yesterday, the claimant of a legacy had, after much dilatory manœuvring on the part of his opponent brought the process to the point of sentence, when the advocate started an objection that I was without jurisdiction, because the testator had chanced to die in a parish in Yorkshire, which was a peculiar of one of the prebendaries of York. As I possess a provincial jurisdiction, I overruled the objection, but if the case had occurred in any other diocese in the kingdom the objection would have been fatal. When a suit must commence in one of the inferior courts, it may be carried through four tribunals before it reaches its conclusion; this is a cruel hardship on the husband in matrimonial causes, for all the ex-pence on both sides is cast on him, and as the wife is also entitled to alimony pending the proceedings, every delay is often interposed in all those stages, for which the dilatory nature of ecclesiastical jurisprudence offers too much facility. I find another complaint made by Archdeacon Goddard in respect to the improper faculties which have been granted in the diocese of Lincoln, when asked whether that was not subject to the control of the judge or Chancellor, he replies, Yes, but where are we to find the Judge or Chancellor? I believe that in this matter, as well as in many other abuses pointed out by the report of the Commissioners, much improvement has since been introduced. The Registry at York was justly animadverted on. The hon. Member for the University of Oxford would not join the hon. Member for Lincoln in his attack thereon; because it was consecrated in his eyes by its venerable antiquity and its unchanged character from the period of its first establishment. I have no control over it, but my brother who is the registrar, has incurred considerable expence in providing a new building for the purpose in concert with the Dean and Chapter. I may, however, remark in reference to the alarm expressed by some members of the risk of fire from one Metropolitan Registry of Wills, that twice has that new Register office at York been exposed to imminent danger in consequence of the conflagration of the noble minster under whose shadow it reposes. But it is a great evil that in this and in numerous other cases there is no official building appertaining to the office—the registrar finds such accommodation for these important documents as he may be able or willing to provide, and his successor may adopt the same or a different receptacle at his pleasure. Many of the peculiars have no other repository for their wills than the private houses of the different proctors who may chance to hold the office of registrar for those documents. Hence arises another evil to the public in the increased difficulty, uncertainty and expence in making searches for wills. The nuisance springing from the law as to Bona Notabilia will be effectually cured by this bill. That law requires as many probates to be obtained as there are jurisdictions in which property belonging to the deceased was left. The result of this law, and of the regulations adopted by the Court of Chancery and the Bank, is that in the majority of cases when the property exceeds 300l, parties have to pay double the amount of fees and charges on probate, and administration beyond the amount really necessary. Moreover, they are liable to find that they have obtained documents merely void from inferior or Diocesan Courts, when a subsequent discovery of a debt due to the deceased in some other diocese shows that the jurisdiction of the superior or Provincial Court should have been resorted to. I must add, though with some pain, that I can confirm by my own experience the evidence of the solicitor to the Stamp office respecting the danger of entrusting these probates to so many functionaries in the country who are not always trustworthy, many have been suppressed for the sake of embezzling the stamps. As to the expence to parties of obtaining probates in common form, there is now such facility of access to the me- tropolis by the post that I do not see any reason why the expence should be greater than in the provinces. The oath of the executor would equally be taken at his own home under commission sent down to him, or through a Surrogate. The regulated fees of Doctors' Commons do not exceed the average of those of the Diocesan Courts. They are less than those of Chester for the registration of the Will, and the only reason why at Lincoln they can boast of lower charges is that there the public does not enjoy the advantage of having the will registered at all, but I admit that there has grown up a practice at Doctors Commons which has no legal sanction, namely, to charge a percentage on the stamp duty, and this even when the party has advanced to his proctor the amount of that stamp duty. It will be our duty, when we go into committee to reform this abuse, and to make such regulations as may secure the public against undue charges. It is fit, however, that those who live in glass houses should not throw stones. There have been arbitrary charges introduced in the courts of Chester, and Lincoln, and others who are loud in their outcry against Doctors' Commons. One circumstance in this debate has greatly astonished me. No gentleman seems to be aware of the existence of that act which invested with almost unlimited powers over these jurisdictions a small body of men termed the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. My hon. Friend has sounded forth a pitiful wailing about the extinction of the peculiars by this bill, and he seems to be in happy ignorance, that by the edict of those commissioners from their chambers in Whitehall-place, they may effect more than this House, or the other House of Parliament, for their fiat becomes ipso facto law, subject only to the formal sanction of the privy council; nor is this an empty authority, they have already executed it to a large extent, they have abolished all the peculiars in the county of Notts, which were multifarious. They have transferred and abolished jurisdictions of archbishops, bishops, archdeacons and every subordinate functionary. If matters stood now on the footing on which they were in the year 1830,I might have been influenced by personal motives and the prejudices of caste, if I may use the phrase, to concur with my hon. Friend in leaving so complicated a machinery untouched, but all the evils which I have described would be greatly aggravated, were those charges made by the commissioners to come into operation. They have been hitherto suspended by the annual bill which has passed in contemplation of this measure. Indeed, I do not believe that the commissioners would have issued some of these orders, had they not counted on the separation of secular from spiritual jurisdictions, knowing as they did that this measure had been recommended by the highest authorities to whom it was possible to resort for counsel on the subject. But so it is, that if you refuse to entertain this measure of reform, the greatest addition of grievance impends over the northern counties, and would, unless averted by the government, come into operation on the 1st of October. The manufacturing districts have found the present system less practically grievous and vexatious, because they have been included in the two largest and most effective among the country jurisdictions, namely York and Chester. But when the jurisdiction of York is stripped of the West Riding and the county of Notts, and when the court of Chester is diminished by the transfer of Lancashire to a new court at Manchester, the law of Bona Notabilia will become as burthensome, and as much a snare to them as elsewhere; and the courts of Chester, Manchester, Ripon, York, and Lincoln, will be reduced to such trifling dimensions as to business and practice, as to offer no prospect of competent judges or practitioners. I may add that the inconvenience would be great of sending parties from the manufacturing towns in the West Riding to transact their business at Ripon, which is a town peculiarly inaccessible to them, and where there is now no court nor the materials for composing one. York is the assize town, and draws parties to it on other business; it is the focus of several railroads, and it is always easy in the hearing of causes there to obtain the aid of superior counsel, who have frequently pleaded before me. I must advert to one other subject, which has been brought before the House by a petition from Manchester. I have reason to believe that it would give much satisfaction in a great proportion of the northern counties, if this bill were so altered as to establish a court for the province of York, co-ordinate with that proposed to be placed in London. This would not be at variance with the report of the ecclesiastical commission. I will not say that I would advise the public that this course would be for their benefit, but if it is their wish, I can only say for myself and the other officers of that court that we should be willing to undertake those increased duties without any increase of our present emoluments. I would even prefer an increased amount of business; because I should feel the probability that the business would be conducted with more skill from increased practice. The existing emoluments would be competent for the remuneration of the officers of the court under any augmentation of those duties. I think that a register of all wills should be provided for every diocesan city from the central registry at Doctors' Commons. I will conclude by expressing my earnest hope that this House will not be so tender of private interests as to forget the great benefit which they have now the opportunity, and therefore the duty of conferring on the public. If they throw this bill to the winds, they will even aggravate existing evils, while if they go into committee they may remedy any defects of detail in its provisions, and they will affirm a principle which involves essential advantages to their constituents.

Mr. T. Duncombe

believed, that of all the courts instituted by ecclesiastical authority, there were none which gave greater dissatisfaction to the public than those over which the hon. and learned Gentleman who had just spoken, presided. The public had a right to expect that judges presiding in courts which decided questions affecting property of great value should be occasionally right, and that they should not get up in that House as Members for East Retford, or some such place, returned by some noble Duke, perhaps, or some other Member of the upper House, and say, to be sure, I may have decided right, or I may have decided wrong. This was a specimen of the judges of the ecclesiastical courts. He must join in what the Chancellor of the diocese of York was pleased to call the pitiful outcry of the hon. Member of the University of Oxford against this bill, although upon different grounds, for his reasons were in accordance with the views which the great body of the people out of the House entertained regarding this measure. The hon. Member said, that ninety-seven petitions, signed by 10,820 individuals, had been presented against this bill; and that no petition had been presented in favour of the bill up to the present time. He did not know whether the hon. Member attached great weight to petitions in determining the I course he should take; but if they were to hare anything to do with the decision of this question, a bill ought to be brought in for the entire abolition of the ecclesiastical courts. What the public required was, that ecclesiastical courts should be abolished, and their jurisdiction transferred to the courts of common law. It was on that principle he should vote against this bill. In 1840 he found that there were 709 petitions presented, with 80,000 signatures, praying for the abolition of church-rates and ecclesiastical courts, and for the release of John Thorogood. These petitions did not ask for any bolstering up of the existing rotten system; they required that the whole of the ecclesiastical courts should be swept away. In 1841 the number of petitions increased to 974, and the signatures were 170,020, all asking for the extinction of the ecclesiastical courts. If the hon. Member laid any stress upon petitions, he ought to vote for the entire abolition of the ecclesiastical courts, a measure which common sense and common justice, no less than the public voice, demanded. That was the principle on which he opposed this bill, which, although it certainly would abolish a great number of those nuisances, the minor courts, yet created a monster nuisance in the court to be established in the metropolis. The judge who was to preside in that court was to have a salary of 4,500l. a-year, and after fifteen years' service he might retire on a pension of 2,250l. The present title of Dean of the Arches was to be retained, thus perpetuating an ecclesiastical distinction offensive to the dissenters. The hon. and gallant Member for Lincoln (Colonel Sib-thorp) had called this bill a Doctors' Commons' job. That was an epithet which, he was sure, would not have proceeded from that (the opposition) side of the House. He was far from saying the hon. Member was wrong in his designation, but it was not very courteous language. The Chancellor of the Diocese of York might, perhaps, be the Dean of the Arches, and if the choke of the Crown was to be restricted to those courts, no man could be better qualified; bat he objected that the prerogative of the Grown should be so restricted. He understood that one of the chief qualifications of the Dean of Arches whose name by the by he must object to as offensive to dissen- ters was, that he should be an individual who had swallowed the whole of the thirty-nine articles, although there were, he believed, at present a great number of the clergy who, though they had subscribed those articles, would be very glad to be relieved from them. It was said that this was to be a civil court hereafter, and when the judge should have subscribed the thirty-nine articles; but it was monstrous to suppose that it would be anything else than that which had been pronounced in former times, by men quite as great and as learned with respect to ecclesiastical courts and their effects as the chancellor of the diocese of York, he meant such men as Lords Hale and Coke, to be contrary to the constitutional liberty of the subject. The public were well aware that this bill did not half come up to the recommendations of the ecclesiastical commissioners. They recommended that if a new court were established, proceedings before it should be by way of trial by jury, with viva voce evidence. By this bill, the judge had certainly the power of referring the case to a jury, if he thought proper, but neither plaintiff nor defendant had that power. He had already referred to the choice of judges, which was to be from advocates of the court of ten years' standing. On what principle could the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government justify the restriction of the prerogative of the Crown in this manner? Why were not the public to have the advantage of the whole bar, to be selected from in the appointment of the judges? Why were they perforce to go among the mists and mildews of Doctors' Commons? The language of repeated petitions against these courts had been, that they were a reproach to a free people, and a disgrace to those individuals who administered the orders of those courts. It seemed that the new courts were not to take cognizance of church-rates, of defamation, of smiting, or brawling in churches and churchyards, and many other subjects which were under the cognizance, and were to remain under the cognizance, of the bishops' courts. As an instance of the injustice often done in such cases by the ecclesiastical courts, be would cite the case of Mr. Apsley Pellatt, where certain persons having a dispute in a public house with the clergyman of the parish, the latter took advantage of the circumstance that the public house abutted on the churchyard, to summon his antagonists on a charge of brawling in a churchyard, before an ecclesiastical court, by which they were cast in heavy costs. Was the power of inflicting such injustice as this to remain in these ecclesiastical courts? Again, according to the statute law, any person smiting in a churchyard, might, on being brought before an ecclesiastical court, be condemned to lose his ear, if he had one, or in default of ears be branded on the forehead with the letter F. The hon. Baronet the Member for Oxford University said as a reason for continuing these courts that they were coeval with the conquest. He might, however, have gone further back. He (Mr. Duncombe) believed they were of Saxon origin, that they belonged to a period when Bishops, Peers, and Commoners sat in them, and dispensed justice to those who came before them; but according to Mr. Burn's Ecclesiastical Law, William 1st came over with the Pope's banner in his hand, and under it won a battle. It therefore appeared to him most extraordinary, that gentlemen of high-flown church principles should be the persons to claim support for these ecclesiastical courts, these courts of papal origin, on the ground that they were coeval with the conquest. The only way he could reconcile it was, that there were attached to these courts very considerable emoluments. He thanked the Government for introducing this measure, and for thereby having called public attention to these nuisances. The public had long demanded the removal of these powers to the common law courts. The Dissenters told them to do what they liked with their own clergy, to enforce what discipline they pleased respecting themselves, just as the army and navy did by their courts-martial, but not to interfere with the civil rights of the subject. He also felt indebted to the Government for introducing the Factory Education Bill. That, too, had raised the sleeping lion. The whole Dissenting interest was in arms against it. He believed that no one in that House imagined when that bill was introduced, that the Dissenters were so strong a body as they had shown themselves by their petitions to be. Had they not all presented petitions on that subject? [" Question. "] That was his question. He had attended meetings for the purpose of petitioning that House on the subject of the Factory Bill; and at those meet- ings, where the sleeping lion was roused, it was observed, "We must not separate, for we find that there is before the House of Commons another obnoxious bill, the Ecclesiastical Courts Bill, the principles of which are equally injurious to liberty." He represented a borough where there was a large proportion of Dissenters, and they were all opposed to the present bill; and it was the opinion of his constituents, that if the ecclesiastical courts were left alone they would die of their own iniquity. Though it was a primâ facie evidence in favour of the bill that the hon. Baronet the Member for the University of Oxford was opposed to it, yet his constituents begged of their representatives to vote against the bill.

Sir R. Peel:

I scarcely recollect a bill which has had the misfortune, like the present bill, to meet with vehement opposition from Gentlemen who maintain such extremely discordant opinions; for the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down means to vote with the hon. Member for the University of Oxford in opposition to the bill, not only on different, but on precisely contrary grounds. It therefore becomes necessary for the supporters of the bill to address themselves to two classes of objections; and I venture to express the hope which I confidently feel, that the great majority of this House will consider whether this bill do not effect a great improvement in the law, or at least whether it do not give the opportunity of effecting improvement? and will not permit a union of men with discordant and contrary opinions to close the door against the possibility of improving the present system. What are the arguments of the hon. Gentleman who spoke last? He says, "Keep all these abuses; preserve them as you find them in existence, effect no reform on this account, because I entertain a confident opinion, that if you permit these peculiars and diocesan courts to remain with their powers intact, they will, at length, die from (as the hon. Gentleman says) their own iniquity." Why, they have survived a pretty long time. So long ago as the period of the Reformation—in the reign of Henry 8th—there was an attempt to reform these jurisdictions. In that reign there was a distinct recommendation to abolish these small local jurisdictions; in the reign of Elizabeth that recommendation was repeated; and in 1812 no incompetent judge—a man, indeed, of the highest authority, the representative of the University of Oxford (Lord Stowell), brought a bill in, which then passed the House of Commons, to abolish altogether these peculiar jurisdictions; and now, in 1843, having had a clear proof that all these iniquities (as the hon. Gentleman calls them) have contrived to endure 300 years, because men would not be satisfied with a moderate reform, the hon. Gentleman says, "Preserve all these jurisdictions, and take the chance of their expiring from their own iniquity." Some of the objections of the hon. Gentleman, I confess, greatly surprise me. The hon. Gentleman referred to what he began by calling Canon Law, the 5th and 6th Edward 1st, which, however, he afterwards more correctly called Statute Law, "See what is the enactment under the present system. By the 5th and 6th of Edward 6th, if a man be guilty of striking in a churchyard or of brawling, he is liable to lose his ear, if he is fortunate enough to possess one." The hon. Gentleman dwelt on this point with seeming apprehension as to what may be his own fate. "See (said the hon. Gentleman) the punishment inflicted on brawling; I should be subject to the penalty of losing one ear, because I have two; but if I had not an ear, then I should be branded on the forehead with the letter F." But if the hon. Gentleman acquiesce in this bill, he will be for the first time, relieved from his apprehensions; because it is distinctly provided by the 86th clause, that the act of the 5th and 6th Edward 6th shall be repealed, except as to proceedings already commenced under it. This, then, is the advice which the hon. Gentleman gives to the House of Commons—" The greatest apprehensions are to be entertained with regard to this statute of the 5th and 6th Edward 1st, but I advise you to continue it in operation, and not to repeal it now, in order that some time hence popular indignation may cause it to be repealed." With respect to many minor points to which the hon. Gentleman has referred, they are matters for consideration in committee; such as, for instance, the amount of the judge's salary and retiring allowance. No one who votes for the second reading of the bill will be committed with respect to these points, and to other details of importance, as, for instance, whether the court should be exclusive or open to all practitioners. Hon. Gentlemen, though they vote for the second reading, can still reserve to themselves the right of considering whether they will agree with my learned Friend (Dr. Nicholls) or with Dr. Lushington, who maintains that it is desirable to have a peculiar jurisdiction, and yet to leave the court open to all practitioners generally; and it will be competent for the hon. Gentleman himself, who thinks that the Dean of the Arches ought not to be exclusively selected from among those gentlemen practising in the civil courts, to propose in committee that the restriction on the Prerogative of the Crown should be removed, and that the Dean of the Arches may be chosen from the professors of every department of law. Let not these objections be relied on as arguments against the second reading of the bill; and I do not think that the House of Commons will on their account reject a bill brought forward by her Majesty's Government to apply a remedy to a great and an admitted evil. What else induces us to undertake the task of proposing this measure except the conscientious conviction that there exists great grievances; and that the present bill if not a complete remedy for them, is at all events a remedy for a considerable number of the evils of the present system. My hon. Friend the Member for Winchester significantly said, and said with truth, "If you proceed with this bill there are many powerful parties who will remember it in the day of trial." This observation is perfectly true; and we have not now heard it for the first time. Do we not know how powerful and wide-spread are the interests connected with these courts? It is our wish, however, in effecting the reform of a great public abuse, that individuals should not suffer by the application of the remedy; but what my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester says is perfectly true, and no executive Government can undertake the reform of a legal abuse, without for a time forfeiting some part of their hold, I will not say on public opinion but of valuable support. We know that we are exposing ourselves to that danger, but we did think it our duty, looking at what has passed—looking at the recommendations on the subject which for so many years have proceeded from the highest authorities, we did feel it to be our duty to ask the House of Commons to consent to our making an attempt at reformation; and we did not try to purchase a continuance of that support by shrinking from the discharge of what we considered our duty, and now it is for the House of Commons to determine whether they will strangle this attempt at reform in its very birth. You may think that this bill does not go far enough—try to carry it farther; it is open to you to do so in committee; and this will be a dishonest opposition if while you are really consulting some local interests, you pretend that it is the partiality of the reform on which you ground your objection. What is the case? At present it appears there are nearly 400 courts exercising ecclesiastical jurisdiction, that is to say, there are not less than 372 courts of peculiars. And what is a peculiar. It is a court sometimes extending its jurisdiction over a parish, sometimes over a large district, sometimes with its jurisdiction unknown, and it has been justly described by ray learned Friend (the Attorney-general) as a trap for her Majesty's subjects. A person applies to a superior court for a probate, and he has no security that one of these local judges may not revive the jurisdiction of his court and claim the right to issue probate, even although his court has been in desuetude for forty or fifty years; and then the hon. Member for Finsbury charged my hon. and learned Friend who gave such disinterested testimony—I mean the hon. Member for East Retford (Mr. G. Vernon)—with the statement, that in order to do justice the law must be violated. Is this the first time that the hon. Member for Finsbury has heard such an avowal with respect to these inferior courts? I will read to the hon. Member a series of decisions—from the highest authority—the judge administering justice in the Court of Appeal, stating the same fact as that put forward by my hon. Friend. I will fortify the authority of my hon. Friend, though it is perhaps superfluous. In the case of "Burnell v. Jenkins," which was an appeal from the Consistory Court of the diocese of Llandaff, what said the judge of the Arches Court? He said, The case comes on here on the same evidence as in the court below. There have certainly been irregularities in the proceedings of the inferior court; but it has always been laid down by my predecessors that this court should endeavour in the best way it could to get at the substantial justice of the case, and not allow either party to be injured by the irregularities of the inferior jurisdiction. So that, unless the judge of appeal overlooked the irregularities of the court below, he had no chance of doing substantial justice. Was this a state of things which ought to be allowed longer to exist—is this the way to secure a respect for the law? Again, in the case of "Morgan v. Hopkins," which occurred two years after that which I have already mentioned, the judge of appeal said, In considering the proceedings of the inferior jurisdictions, this court endeavours to look to the justice of the case, and is not strict as to the proceedings; but there are some irregularities, such as appear in this case, which the court cannot overlook. Irregularities exist in many of the inferior courts, but they are conspicuous in the court from which this appeal is brought; there the proceedings are not carried on upon the same principles which guide us in Doctors' Commons. The error is, they have mistaken the answers for the plea, and examined upon them; great confusion of ecclesiastical proceedings in the country arises from solicitors acting as proctors, and knowing nothing of ecclesiastical law; when they come before the superior court, they must be set right and not allowed to proceed. So again, three years afterwards, in the case "Lee and Parker v. Chalcraft," an appeal from the Consistory Court of Winchester, the judge said, With respect to the other preliminary objection, it is the rule of the court, in all appeals from the country jurisdictions, to endeavour to get at the substantial justice of the case, at least in all questions which regard a civil right; in criminal cases it may be otherwise. If we were not to admit the irregularities which take place in the courts below, the plaintiff could hardly ever succeed in obtaining justice before this tribunal. Now there are, I repeat nearly 400 of these courts delivering adverse and conflicting decisions on matters relating to property, and the judge of appeal year after year declaring, that however irregular the proceedings might have been in the courts below, unless he overlooked those irregularities, the ends of justice would be completely defeated. Why, hon. Members opposite did not seem to know the number of those inferior jurisdictions. The ecclesiastical commissioners reported them as being in number about 300, but in the next report the number was brought up to nearer 400 than 300. And who are the judges of those courts? I will take the first diocese in alphabetical order, that of Bath and Wells. In that diocese there are sixteen courts of peculiars con- nected with each prebend. Each of those prebends had a regular court of its own, and here is a return of the annual emoluments of the judges and registrars of the archidiaconal courts in the diocese, with the number of causes brought before them, and the number of probates and administrations granted. The sixteen prebendaries, each with a court employing sixteen judges and as many registrars, with jurisdictions unknown—with the population of the original jurisdiction in many instances doubled, had in three years heard five causes, and granted thirty probates, and ten administrations. And what were the salaries of the judges of these courts? Why the whole sum received by these sixteen judges in the three years was 10l. 19s. 3d. The powers of these courts led to very vexatious applications, I will take the law as regards bona notabilia, where there is a necessity for applying to three jurisdictions, one of them being a Royal Peculiar. You have first to go to the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, then to that of York, and finally to the Royal Peculiar Court, before you can inherit your property. Now I ask, is this a state in which we should leave the law? Remember also that the officers connected with these courts concur without any assignable motive beyond their experience of the administration of the law, in advising the annihilation of the peculiar and the reform of the diocesan jurisdictions. That advice has been given by Sir William Alexander, Sir Nicholas Tindal, Lord Tenterden, Lord Wynford, Dr. Lushington, Mr. Freshfield, formerly a Member of this House, and by Dr. William Addams. Was it likely that these men—men not likely to lend themselves to innovations, should have come to the same conclusion with respect to those institutions, unless they had the strongest proof that there was a grievance in them? Then, again, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bishop of London, the Bishop of Durham, and three other bishops, whose feelings and prejudices might be supposed to be in favour of the maintenance of the diocesan courts, concurred also in advising that the jurisdiction of the peculiars should be abolished, and the testamentary jurisdiction transferred from their own courts to one supreme authority with known and fixed principles of law with respect to bequests. Well, then, will the House, having the authority of six bishops and ten judges for a reform of the Ecclesiastical Courts, reject the bill on its second reading, and thus refuse even to consider in detail the plan of reform brought forward by the Government? If the House do so, let it cease to taunt the Government with being reluctant to reform, while it exhibits this proof that reform is good to talk of at a distance, that you will use it to taunt the Government with an adherence to abuses, and when the Government came forward with a measure of reform, supported by the high authorities I have mentioned, which is the reflex, too, of public opinion, you will, when they propose a timely reform, make them pay the penally of the discredit of being left in a minority by the Representatives of the people of England? I never can believe that the House of Commons will adopt that course. If you go into committee with this bill, wishing to carry its provisions still further—do so and pro-pose your amendments; but will any man, professing a conscientious adherence to reform, vote against the second reading of the bill because it does not go as far as he wishes? With respect to the offence of defamation, it is a mistake to suppose the bill retains the jurisdiction of the Ecclesiastical Courts, and yet that has been urged as a reason for rejecting this bill. I do not profess to have that professional knowledge which would enable me fully to discuss the details of the measure, but I thought it right thus to declare the object and views of the Government in proposing it. That commission, from which the proposition originates, was advised by me at a period when the subject of legal reform was fully occupying the public mind. I had myself employed many years in endeavouring to improve and consolidate the criminal law of the country, and when I saw the strong feeling which existed in favour of legal reform, I was, too, one of the first to urge that the abuses in the Ecclesiastical Court should not escape. I advised the appointment of the commission, as I wished that any reforms which should take place might be carried through in conformity with the suggestions and concurrence of those whose high station and high character would entitle their opinions to the respect both of the Church and the public. Twelve years have elapsed since that period, and nothing has been done, though successive Governments have attempted to give effect to the recommendation of the commissioners; but certain influences, whether of reason or justice, or a less creditable character, have prevented them from effecting the object. It is not my intention to impute bad motives to any individual, but whatever be the ultimate fate of this bill, I can never bring myself to believe that this House will negative on a second reading the consideration of a subject to which the Government has paid much attention, and it is my impression that this is a most appropriate period for undertaking the reform of the Ecclesiastical Courts without the danger of disturbing the public mind, or exciting the hostility of existing interests. So help me God, I for my own part am influenced in my course by no sinister, corrupt, or dishonest motives. The measure is one which involves no patronage. On the contrary, great sinecures now existing are proposed to be for ever terminated. For the first time a great saving in these courts is proposed to be effected. Resist the measure if you will, but if you do, you cannot taunt the Government with not having exhibited a strong sense of what is due to the interests and the sound opinions of the country. The right hon. Baronet concluded amidst loud cheers.

Mr. Labouchere

rose amidst loud cries for a division, which were frequently repeated. He said, that having been some years ago chairman of a committee which had examined into this subject, he could not feel that he should perform his duty in giving a silent vote. He would give his cordial support to the second reading of the bill. The principle upon which it was founded had been too long neglected, and it was the sacred duty of the House to endeavour to reform the errors of the ecclesiastical jurisdiction. Of all the abuses in our courts those in the ecclesiastical jurisdiction were the most flagrant and the most aggravated. Indeed, they had not been denied by any of the hon. Members who took a share in the discussion. He, however, considered the proposition of his right hon. Friend the Member for Devonport a good one, as he was of opinion that the errors of the present system could be best considered by a select committee, which could also deliberate more calmly on the necessary reforms. There were no reforms more difficult than those which affected local and professional interests, and this was found to be the case by Cromwell when he attempted to reform the abuses in Chancery and failed after all his efforts. When writing upon the subject to his son Ireton his expression was, "The sons of Zeruiah have proved too strong for me."

Mr. Hume

, amidst loud calls for a division, said he would support the bill, and on the same grounds on which it was opposed by his hon. Friend the Member for Finsbury. His hon. Friend opposed it, not because it was not good, but because it did not go far enough, but he would accept the benefit as far as it went. He was himself anxious for the abolition of all ecclesiastical law, for he did not see why they should not do in this country what had been done in Scotland. Fourteen years ago in that country the consistorial courts were abolished, and they had adjudicated on cases brought under the civil law with the utmost success. One of the first questions put to the right hon. Baronet on his taking office was, "Do you propose to do anything with respect to the ecclesiastical law, for we have left a bill behind us upon the subject?" Under such circumstances, he did not conceive that any of those persons could with consistency oppose the second reading of this bill.

Captain Gladstone

, amidst loud calls for a division, wished to say a few words in explanation of his vote. He would not, in its present stage, undertake the responsibility of voting against the measure; but if his present objections to it were not removed when it went into committee, he must then vote against it.

Sir H. W. Barron

had presided over a committee which had sat for three months on the subject of Irish ecclesiastical courts, in which the abuses existed in a treble degree to what they did here, and knowing the extent of the abuses in these courts, the bill should have his cordial and warm support, inasmuch as it remedied some of, though not all, the abuses. But why was not Ireland included in the bill, and why were not the evils and abuses in the ecclesiastical courts of Ireland also sought to be remedied? If the House wished to do justice to Ireland and put an end to the arguments which were now urging there in favour of a local Legislature, they would put down the abuses of the ecclesiastical courts in that country, and if this bill were agreed to, he trusted the Government would next Session bring forward a similar measure for Ireland, in pursuance of the recommendations of the commission on the subject which had been appointed by the right hon. Baronet, when Chief Secretary for Ireland.

Mr. Roebuck

said, that after the extremely forcible and ingenious speech of the right hon. Baronet, he thought it necessary to explain the ground on which he should vote for the second reading of the bill. The right hon. Baronet had dwelt on the grievances the bill was intended to remedy, and accurately explained them, and in that he quite agreed with the right hon. Baronet, and he supported the bill so far as it pulled down, but he totally disagreed with it as far as it attempted to build up. In the committee he should endeavour to reform the measure in this respect, and if it did not come out of committee a totally different measure he should think the House right in rejecting it altogether.

The House divided on the question that the word "now" stand part of the question. Ayes 186; Noes 104: Majority 82.

List of the AYES.
Acton, Col. Clayton, R. R.
Ainsworth, P. Clerk, Sir G.
Aldam, W. Clive, hon. R. H.
Antrobus, E. Colebrooke, Sir T. E.
Arbuthnot, hon. H. Collett, J.
Archdall, Capt. M. Corry, right hon. H.
Baillie, Col. Craig, W. G.
Baillie, H. J. Cripps, W.
Baring, hon. W. B. Curteis, H. B.
Baring, rt. hon. F. T. Dalrymple, Capt.
Barnard, E. G. Damer, hon. Col.
Barrington, Visct. Darby, G.
Barron, Sir H. W. Dennistoun, J.
Bentinck, Lord G. Dick, Q.
Beresford, Major Dodd, G.
Blackburne, J. I. Douglas, Sir C. E.
Bodkin, W. H. Duncan, Visct.
Boldero, H. G. Duncan, G.
Bowring, Dr. Duncombe, hon. A.
Bramston, T. W. Dundas, D.
Brotherton, J. Egerton, W. T.
Browne, hon. W. Egerton, Lord F.
Brace, Lord E. Eliot, Lord
Buller, E. Ellice, E.
Burrell, Sir C. M. Elphinstone, H.
Busfeild, W. Evans, W.
Campbell, Sir H. Ewart, W.
Campbell, A. Flower, Sir J.
Cardwell, E. Follett, Sir W. W.
Cavendish, hon. C. C. Forester, hon. G. C. W.
Cavendish, hon. G. H. Forster, M.
Charteris, hon. F. Fox, C. R.
Chelsea, Visct. Fox, S. L.
Christie, W. D. Fuller, A. E.
Chute, W. L. W. Gaskell, J. Milnes
Gill, T. Miles, W.
Gisborne, T. Mitchell, T. A.
Gladstone, rt. hn. W. E. Muntz, G. F.
Gladstone, Capt. Neville, R.
Godson, R. Nicholl, rt. hon. J.
Gordon, hon. Capt. O'Brien, J.
Gore, W. O. O'Conor Don
Gore, W. R. O. Paget, Col.
Goring, C. Pechell, Capt.
Goulburn, rt. hon. H. Peel, rt. hon. Sir R.
Graham, rt. hon. Sir J. Peel, J.
Greene, T. Pennant, hon. Col.
Gray, right hon. Sir G. Philips, G. R.
Hamilton, W. J. Plumptre, J. P.
Hampden, R. Plumridge, Capt.
Harcourt, G. G. Pollock, Sir F.
Hardinge, rt. hn. Sir H. Pringle, A.
Hardy, J. Protheroe, E.
Hatton, Capt. V. Reid, Sir J. R.
Hawes, B. Rice, E. R.
Hayes, Sir E. Roebuck, J. A.
Hepburn, Sir T. B. Round, J.
Herbert, hon. S. Rous, hon. Capt.
Hervey, Lord A. Russell, Lord J.
Hindley, C. Rutherford, A.
Hodgson, F. Ryder, hon. G. D.
Hodgson, R. Sanderson, R.
Hogg, J. W. Scholefield, J.
Holmes, hon. W. A'C. Smith, A.
Hope, hon. C. Smith, rt. hon. T. B. C.
Hope, G. W. Somerset, Lord G.
Howard, Lord Sotheron, T. H. S.
Hume, J. Stanley, Lord
Ingestre, Visct. Stansfield, W. R. C.
James, Sir W. C. Staunton, Sir G. T.
Jermyn, Earl Stewart, J.
Johnstone, Sir J. Stuart, W. V.
Kelburne, Visct. Strutt, E.
Kelly, F. R. Sutton, hon. H. M.
Kemble, H. Tennent, J. E.
Knatchbull, rt. hn. Sir E. Thesiger, F.
Knight, H. G. Thornely, T.
Labouchere, rt. hon. H. Tomline, G.
Langston, J. H. Trelawney, J. S.
Lascelles, hon. W. S. Trench, Sir F. W.
Law, hon. C. E. Trotter, J.
Legh, G. C. Vane, Lord H.
Lincoln, Earl of Verner, Col.
Lockhart, W. Vernon, G. H.
Long, W. Wall, C. B.
Lowther, hon. Col. Wellesley, Lord C.
Lyall, G. Wood, Col. T.
Maclean, D. Wood, G. W.
Martin, J. Wortley, hon. J. S.
Martin, C. W. Wrightson, W. B.
Master, T. W. C. Young, J.
Masterman, J.
Meynell, Capt. TELLERS.
Mildmay, H. St. John Fremantle, Sir T.
Miles, P. W. S. Baring, H.
List of the NOES.
Acland, T. D. Bailey, J. J.
Adderley, C. B. Baskerville, T. B. M.
Aglionby, H. A. Bell, J.
Allix, J. P. Berkeley, hon. G. F.
Bagot, hon. W. Blackstone, W. S.
Broadley, H. Lawson, A.
Brocklehurst, J. Lygon, hon. Gen.
Buck, L. W. Mc. Geachy, F. A.
Buller, Sir J. Y. Mainwaring, T.
Cayley, E. S. Manners, Lord J.
Christopher, R. A. Marsham, Visct.
Clive, Visct. Marsland, H.
Cochrane, A. Mordaunt, Sir J.
Colborne. hn. W. N. R. Morris, D.
Collett, W. R. Murphy, F. S.
Courtenay, Lord Newdigate, C. N.
Davies, D. A. S. O'Brien, A. S.
Dawnay, hon. W. H. O'Brien, W. S.
Dickinson, F. H. Paget, Lord A.
Disraeli, B. Palmer, It.
Douglas, Sir H. Polhill, F.
Duncombe, T. Ponsonby, hn. C. F. A.
Duncombe, hon. O. Ponsonby, hon. J. G.
Dungannon, Visct. Pulsford, R.
East, J. B. Repton, G. W. J.
Eastnor, Visct. Rushbrooke, Col.
Eaton, R. J. Russell, J. D. W.
Ebrington, Visct. Sandon, Visct.
Egerton, Sir P. Scarlett, hon. R. C.
Escott, B. Sibthorp, Col.
Farnham, E. B. Smythe, hon. G.
Fielden, W. Stuart, H.
Fielden, J. Strickland, Sir G.
Fellowes, E. Tancred, H. W.
Fitzroy, hon. H. Tollemache, J.
Gore, M. Trollope, Sir J.
Gore, hon. R. Turner, E.
Granger, T. C. Turner, C.
Greenall, P. Vivian, hon. Capt.
Grosvenor, Lord R. Waddington, H. S.
Hale, R. B. Walker, R.
Hamilton, Lord C. Watson, W. H.
Hanmer, Sir J. Wilde, Sir T.
Hayter, W. G. Wilshere, W.
Heathcoat, J. Winnington, Sir T. E.
Heathcote, G, J. Wodehouse, E.
Heathcote, Sir W. Wood, B
Heneage, E. Worsley, Lord
Henley, J. W. Wyse, T.
Hill, Lord M. Yorke, H. R.
Hillsborough, Earl of
Howard, hon. C. W. G. TELLERS.
Jolliffe, Sir W. G. H. Inglis, Sir R. H.
Knight, F. W. Jervis, J.

The House adjourned at half- past twelve o'clock.