HC Deb 09 August 1843 vol 71 cc406-9
Mr. T. Duncombe

had, a question to put to the right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for the Home Department, with reference to a petition which he had presented a few days ago, and which was signed by the present high-sheriff of Buckingham, three of his predecessors, and a number of the freeholders of the county. The petitioners complained of considerable irregularity in the nomination of the high-sheriff by the Privy Council. It appeared by the petition,— That at the summer assizes for the county of Buckingham for the year one thousand eight hundred and forty two, John Palmer, Esq., the then high sheriff, returned to Mr. Baron Alderson the senior judge of assize on the Norfolk circuit, a list of gentlemen qualified to serve the office of sheriff, namely, John Lee, of Hartwell-house, Esq.; John Kay, of Fulmer, Esq.; Anthony Davis, of Misbourne-house, Chalfont St. Giles, Esq.; William George Cavendish, of Latimer, Esq.; William Jones, of Chalfont St. Giles, Esq.; Thomas Tyrwhitt Drake, the younger, of Shardeloes, Esq. That your petitioners cannot but believe that the same list was, by the said Baron Alderson handed in without alteration or amendment at the meeting of the judges and other great officers and privy councillors in the Exchequer, on the morrow of St. Martin, in the same year, 1843, but none of the persons whose names were so returned by the said John Palmer were nominated to serve the office of sheriff, but there appeared in the Gazette of persons so nominated, one Edmund Francis Dayrell, of Lillinstone Dayrell, in the county of Buckingham, Esq., whose was not in the return made by the said John Palmer. That the nomination of a person to serve the office of sheriff, not chosen according to the statute, is a power not vested in her gracious Majesty, is a gross violation of the constitution, calculated to infringe the liberty of the subject, and subvert that great bulwark of constitutional liberty, trial by jury. It was customary to place the names of two gentlemen who were rejected the previous year on the list, and these gentlemen were generally appointed in rotation. The petitioners stated, to their great surprise, a gentleman had been appointed to the office whose name had not appeared in the list delivered to the judge. The reason the petitioners think that Baron Alderson did not make the alteration was this; that on the morning when it was the duty of the high-sheriff to give in the list, the judge directed the clerk to put Dr. Lee's name at the head of the list, and afterwards it was found that instead of Dr. Lee's name, that of Mr. Dayrell had been substituted. It was a question that had caused great dissatisfaction and some alarm in the county. The appointment to the office of high-sheriff was not vested in the Crown, it was made on the recommendation of the judge, and the Crown ought not to appoint any person not so recommended. This was a subject that appeared to be of considerable importance, and justified him in asking the Secretary of State for the Home Department how it had occurred.

He did not call on the right hon. Baronet to state what was the cause of the change; but the general feeling of the country was, that it was owing to some high aristocratic influence which had induced it. He did not think he was asking too much of the right hon. Gentleman, when he called upon him to explain this proceeding, as from the lateness of the Session it was impossible to bring forward a specific motion.

Sir James Graham

was not disposed to undervalue the importance of this subject, nor to complain of any jealousy that might be exhibited with respect to irregularity in the appointment of a high sheriff. He was quite prepared to give an explanation to the hon. Gentlemen, and he hoped it would be satisfactory to him and the House. He could assure the hon. Gentleman that so far from any aristocratic influence being exercised in this case, that nothing had occurred but that which was in accordance with established usage, and strictly in obedience to the law. The hon. Gentleman had fallen into some inaccuracies. The names returned to the Crown for selection were not six but three. This had occurred in this case, and the election had taken place in the Exchequer, on the morrow of St. Martin; that which was done occurred in open court, where three names were returned; and the choice of the Crown was limited to these three. It appeared that it was the duty of the judge to make out a list of these names, which he did from the information that he received. It was the duty of the senior judge to do this, and he made out his list from the information he received from various parties, from the lord-lieutenant of the county, from the clerk of the peace, the foreman of the grand jury, or the under sheriff. From these, or other parties, he might receive information. The list was formed at the absolute discretion of the senior judge. In 1841 the list for the county of Buckingham contained the names of John Palmer, John Seniors, and S. Barnes. Mr. Palmer served in 1842, then the list contained the names of S. Senior, and S. Barnes; and to those Mr. Baron Alderson added the name of Edmund Francis Dayrell. The first name, Mr. Senior, was now sheriff, Mr. Barnes' name was after that, and then came the name of Mr. Dayrell. Her Majesty's Government had taken the senior name on the list, and Mr. Senior was now the high sheriff. These were the facts, and they had taken place in open court.