§ Mr. James S. Wortley
hoped that the House would listen to him for a few minutes while he addressed them on the subject-matter of the bill, the second reading of which he was about to move, as it regarded a case of great importance involving nearly half a million of money, and involved persons who were not aware that they had committed any legal offence. He should not have felt called upon to trouble the House at all, if it were not for some symptoms of opposition which had been manifested with respect to this bill. The hon. Member for Montrose said a few nights ago, that the object of the bill was for the encouragement of gambling. Now, he would at once declare, that no one would give a more strenuous opposition to this bill than himself, if he believed that it had such an object, or would be productive of such an effect. He did not suppose that the hon. Member for Montrose had ever entered one of the numerous gambling houses which abound in the metropolis, and he could assure the hon. Member that he had never done so, for his professional pursuits had entirely destroyed any such disposition. He certainly had won as much as 10l. or so on a race, and although he had 790 some knowledge of the law, he confessed, that at the time he did so, he was totally ignorant that he was breaking the law. The object of this bill was to suspend the operation of certain provisions of the 16th Charles 2nd, chap.7, and the 9th of Anne, chap. 14, respecting penalties that could be recovered for Horse-racing. He repeated, he merely wished to suspend the operation of certain provisions of these acts to the end of the Session, and then only as far as regarded common informers bringing actions to recover penalties for betting at horse-races. He did not propose to touch that part of the act allowing parties who had made bets and lost them, and had paid their losses, to get back the money so paid by action. With respect to the motion for which the hon. Member for Manchester had given notice, he would only then observe, that if the hon. Member would move for a committee to inquire into the operation of the laws against gaming, he would cordially support his motion, and would give him all the assistance in his power to carry out the inquiry; but any opposition to the present bill, he would resist to the utmost. At common law, betting was perfectly legal, unless it was against public policy, such, for instance, as was held in the case of a bet respecting the duration of the life of Napoleon Buonaparte, while ruler of France, or against decency, as was determined in the case of the bet as to the sex of the Chevalier D'Eon; or against morals, as in a bet whether a single woman was with child or not. With such exceptions as these, betting at common law was legal, and the bets could be recovered. For instance, it had been determined, that the bet as to the colour that a certain jockey would wear when he rode on a racer was legal, and the money lost could be recovered in court. Again, if a bet was made after a race, and if one party bet 500l. that one horse had won, and another party that it had not, it had been held in such case to have been a perfectly legal bet. Such niceties as these might be known to those who belonged to the legal profession, but it could hardly be expected that the persons whose interests were involved in this bill should be acquainted with the law on the subject, as they were not lawyers. He was sorry to say, that the persons who had brought these actions, were not of the honest class of lawyers. There were some descriptions of bets which were most objectionable, and yet were legal. For instance, a case of this description occurred 791 in 1771: Two young men, namely, Mr. Codrington, the son of Sir William Codrington, and Mr. Pigott, ran what was called their fathers' lives against each other, and it was referred to Lord Ossory to determine as to the odds that should be laid. That nobleman determined that they should be 1,600l. to 500l. A bet to this amount was settled, and Lord March, afterwards Duke of Queensberry, who thought the odds too favourable on the side of Mr. Pigott, obtained the bet from that gentleman. It appeared, that before the bet had been settled, the father of Mr. Pigott died, but the circumstance at the time was not known to either party. In consequence of this the payment of the bet was refused, and an action was brought, and was tried before Lord Mansfield, and the plaintiff recovered; and, on a motion being made for a new trial, the court refused to interfere with the verdict. Here, then, was a bet which was contrary to every feeling of decency, which was determined by a court of common law to be legal, while those who made bets on horse-races were exposed to the most harassing and vexatious proceedings by a set of common informers, who happened to be attorneys' clerks. He should be able to show, that in these proceedings, these persons had not acted from any regard to public morals, or with the desire of suppressing gambling, but for the purpose of extortion, and with the worst feelings of revenge. The 16th Charles 2nd, c. 71, under the provisions of which these actions were brought, and by which bets on horse races were held to be illegal, was entitled "An Act against Doubtful, Disorderly, and Excessive Gaming." It should be recollected, also, that the second act, the 9th of Anne, was passed in the reign of a Sovereign who had greatly encouraged the practice of horse races, and he had been informed by a noble Friend near him that only two days before she died she won the cup at York. There was, however, not a word against bets at horse races in this act. There was a curious provision, however, in it. After enacting the penalties that should be levied for gaming with cards, dice, tables, or other games, or betting to the amount of 10l., it proceeded, in the last clause, to declare that its provisions should not extend to any games played or bets made within the precinct of Her Majesty's palace. Of course, Queen Anne could not be expected to run a horse race in her drawing-room, nor did 792 he believe that bets on horse races were in the contemplation of the framers of the act. As to the parties bringing these actions, one of them he might mention, who was now an attorney's clerk, had been croupier at a gambling-house, from which place he had been discharged for reasons which could be explained when necessary. Another, also an attorney, had likewise been connected with gambling. The records of the Court of Exchequer did not enable him to say what the exact amount was for which the actions were brought, but he had seen five of the writs issued against a gentleman, one of the most honourable-minded men in existence, who certainly had had no idea that he was offending against the laws, and the sums set forth in those five writs alone amounted to upwards of 80,000l. One circumstance would show what sort of persons those were who had got up these prosecutions. One of the attorneys concerned for the plaintiffs hearing that a certain eminent personage in the law, who he had reason to believe had been consulted by some of the defendants, and had been consequently made acquainted with much of the case, went to that person, and representing himself to be Mr. Hill, one of the solicitors for the defence, obtained an opinion and information upon the case as for the defendants. He did not consider, with some hon. Gentlemen, that the present proceeding was at all a departure from the principle of justice. In the year 1814 a bill was, in like manner, introduced into Parliament for the purpose of stopping certain actions that had been brought under an act of Parliament against certain non-resident clergymen, and on that occasion, Lord Eldon expressed a decided opinion that, when it was found that informers were making a vexatious and corrupt use of an Act of Parliament, for the mere purpose of extorting money and enriching themselves by legal penalties, it was time for the legislature to interfere. He had that day ascertained by merely half an hour's search at the Court of Exchequer, that no fewer than twenty-one actions involving penalties to the extent of half a million had been brought from no desire of vindicating public morals, or promoting public or individual virtue, but for the mere purpose of pocketing a moiety of the proceeds. The hon. Member read over the names of several of the persons who were the subject of these actions and said, they were all honourable men—Mr. Bowes, Lord Elingtoun, Lord Bentinck, who was 793 there to answer for himself, Mr. Crockford, and John Gully, Esq., once Member for Pontefract, and these gentlemen were not made equally the object of attack by these informers, some of them being served with six, some with five, and others with fewer writs. He begged to be understood that he was not the apologist or defender of the practice of gaming, or staking large sums on events regulated by chance. Still he wished to explain that in most cases large bets were hedged off by the person who made them, taking odds against the chances of his winning the original bet; so that, though taking originally a bet of 100l., he might hedge off 99l. of it, standing only the loss of 1l. In this respect, a man so circumstanced, and having so hedged his money, would be sued not for the penalty upon the 1l. he really risked, but for the whole penalty on the 100l., or treble the amount of the wager. Could any thing possibly be more unjust than inflicting such a penalty to be recovered by indifferent parties through the defective language or improper wording of these acts of Parliament? It would perhaps be objected by some hon. Members that the House would not have been troubled upon the subject of these actions, if the persons sued had been persons in humble life or poor. He would suggest this objection was at once invidious and invalid, for it would hardly be ever expected that such actions would be brought against men in the humble walks of life, and if a poor man they could expect no more than his skin. He would refer those who were too much engaged to make more extensive inquiries on the subject to an article in the "Law Magazine," very ably written, which concludes by saving that the laws relative to Gaming have been drawn with so much carelessness and are so uncertain that it is impossible to say, what the rights and liabilities of any man are in reference to those laws. Assuring the House that he was prompted in this instance solely by a sense of duty and a desire to defeat imposition, he moved that the hill be read a second time.
§ Mr. M. Gibson
said, the bill involved considerations of the most important kind. When the hon. Gentleman proposed to enact an ex post facto law to relieve those who had violated the law, to give protection to those who had violated the spirit and words of an act of Parliament, and to withdraw protection from those who obeyed it, a very satisfactory explanation of his reasons must have been expected 794 and required. In proposing to the House the amendment which he (Mr. Gibson) had risen to move, it was necessary for him to state that he thought the House had nothing to do with the character of the parties. The House ought to dismiss the question of character entirely from its consideration—they ought to have nothing whatever to do with considerations of character or station in such a matter as this. To allow such considerations to influence them was to legislate, not on principles, but from personal motives, and for almost personal ends. The hon. Gentleman who had introduced the bill, had, in fact, given the best reason possible why he (Mr. Gibson) should persevere in his amendment. He said the law affecting these subjects was so bad, that it required revision altogether. He did not, however, tell them what might be the effect of looking carefully and searchingly into the effects of these laws. It might turn out, after inquiry by a Committee of the House, that the Legislature might still maintain the opinion, that the present law it would be desirable to maintain. And should this be the case, as very likely it might be, they would, if they consented to this bill, be saving those who had now violated the law, by a sort of parenthesis. The House might report it to be desirable that certain penalties now attached to acts of gaming should still be retained. He (Mr. Gibson) had heard that people on the other side were very fond of trying to make the nation moral and religious by Act of Parliament; and he, therefore, would not, if he could help it, allow great men, and rich men, and influential men, to escape the infliction of laws which they had made for other people. These actions were not to be suspended, they were to be put an end to altogether. Now, he did not believe there was so much ignorance prevailing as to the existing law respecting gaming as the hon. Gentleman seemed to think; on the contrary, scarcely a term passed in which actions were not brought under these statutes of Charles and Anne. [Mr. Wortley: There has not been a single action.] Really, they could not sit there to draw distinctions of this kind. The acts were levelled against gaming, betting above a certain amount, and not against any particular sport. But that it would be occupying the time of the House, he would move that this statute be read by the Clerk at the Table. The 795 Act of Charles was to prevent deceitful and excessive gaming. There were certain pastimes and games enumerated in that act, and amongst those games and pastimes, horse-racing was named. There could be no doubt that that act, which was meant to apply to gaming, applied also to gambling upon horse-races. He thought, that those who supported this bill in the other House of Parliament must have been jesting when they called the bill at present before the House a "manly and a wholesome pastime bill." It was quite absurd to see the right rev. Prelates, who had been so monstrously alarmed at the idea of anything being done by Parliament to sanction gaming, allowing their zeal for public morals to subside and ooze away at being told by the friends of the bill that it was, forsooth, "a manly sports and wholesome pastimes bill." "Great men may jest with saints, 'tis wit in them, but, in the less, foul profanation." The hon. Gentleman said these statutes had not been acted upon for the last 150 years. Now, it was well known, that qui tam actions had been brought over and over again, against persons winning more than a certain sum at one sitting at a game of chance, and yet no one had come down to the House to ask for a bill of indemnity. The hon. Gentleman cited several of these cases, and went on to observe, if the law was not what it ought to be, the Legislature had no one to thank for it but themselves. They had invited informers to take upon themselves the odium and the expense of prosecuting these cases; and the informers had a right to complain if the Legislature attempted to deprive them of those rights which it had bestowed upon them. It had been the policy of the Legislature which had held out to the informer the advantages which had given rise to these actions. Was it justice now to interfere to deprive the informer of his vested interest? Would it not tend to lower the character of the Legislature with the people? Would it not be said that all those who had friends in Parliament in high stations could suspend the operation of the law—could have bills of indemnity introduced to release them from the liability to penalties which they had incurred? In the year 1842 qui tam actions had been brought under the provisions of this very clause against a person named Bond; actions of a precisely similar 796 character to those now under discussion. The law had been allowed to take its course. The plaintiff had recovered the full amount of the penalties. There was no insinuation that Bond had permitted unfair play, but merely that he had offended against this particular statute. He did not consider that Bond was so much to blame as the parties who supported his establishment. Bond was not indicted for keeping a gambling-house, but for winning bets above a certain amount, and the action would have equally been good, whether the bets were made on a horse-race or a game of cards. He felt bound to oppose the passing of this Bill of Indemnity, until he had a resolution passed pledging the House to appoint a Committee to revise the laws relating to gambling. The pledge of a single Member was not sufficient, he, therefore, must press his amendment to a division. He would here take the liberty of quoting from a Conservative journal an article on the prosecution of Bond, very much to the present purpose. In the Times of Thursday, Dec. 8, 1842, in an article upon Bond's case, there were these passages:—All persons who desire to see the laws of the land co-operating with the interests of morality, and more especially all who (like ourselves) are inclined to look with peculiar jealousy at illegal practices, on the part of persons moving in the upper circles of society, must have rejoiced to see the report which was published on Monday, of a successful action in the Court of Exchequer against the keeper of a first-rate gaming-house in St. James's Street. For this we have not to thank either the Attorney-general, or the Solicitor-general, or the Home Secretary, or the Society for the Suppression of Vice, authorities who, we regret to say, are apt to consider the Corinthian atmosphere of St. James's-street out of their jurisdiction, and would doubtless feel a horror of running the remotest risk of detecting a colleague in office, or a Parliamentary or Exeter-hall supporter in his private sins. Our gratitude is due exclusively to an artist named Smith, and to an Act of Parliament of the good old days of Queen Anne.This case showed, that the statute was perfectly well known. Bond had been ruined, and forced to leave the country. No bill of indemnity had been brought in for him. Judge Blackstone, in speaking of gaming amongst other offences against society, said:—But, taken in any light, it is an offence of the most alarming nature; tending, by neces- 797 sary consequence, to promote public idleness, theft, and debauchery, amongst those of a lower class, and among persons of a superior rank it hath frequently been attended with the sudden ruin and desolation of ancient and opulent families, an abandoned prostitution of every principle of honour and virtue, and too often hath ended in self-murder.And, again, speaking of gaming amongst the poor, he said:—But this is not the principal ground of modern complaint: it is the gaming in high life that demands the attention of the magistrate; a passion to which every valuable consideration is made a sacrifice, and which we seem to have inherited from our ancestors, the ancient Germans,whom Tacitus describes to have been bewitched with the spirit of play to a most exorbitant degree.Blackstone went on to say that it was difficult to put down this vice by penalties and qui tam actions, but, unfortunately, that was not the sentiment of the Legislature now-a-days. They were desirous to make the people moral by Act of Parliament. In this spirit they had brought forward the Bill for the better Observance of the Sabbath, and other measures by which they showed that they relied more upon stringent enactments than upon affording a sound Education to the people, and enabling them to trust to their own self-control. An hon. Member had stated, that nothing was more common than for that House to relieve parties from penalties to which they had subjected themselves by violating the law. He (Mr. Gibson) agreed that there were cases in which such relief was proper, but the case of Mr. Wright, and the informations preferred by him against members of the clergy, was considered one of the most gross intances of dereliction of principle of which the Legislature had ever been guilty. Mr. Wright had brought 200 actions, in which he sought to recover penalties from clergymen for non-residence, under an act passed in 1803, but then the bishops, and great men of the Church, and the aristocracy, combined, thinking that the joke was carried too far when it came unexpectedly to affect themselves, and it would be scarcely credible if it were not well known that the Legislature felt it consistent with its duty to relieve the parties from the liabilities which were imposed upon them by its own act passed only ten years before. And even then, so indisputable was the claim to penalties 798 considered—created as that claim had been by the Legislature itself, that although the actions were suspended and ultimately discontinued, the informer was not deprived of his vested interest in the penalties. The present Lord Chancellor, then Sergeant Copley, pleaded the cause of the informer, and that successfully, although the individual was known to have acted from no regard for the execution of the law, but solely with a view to extort money for his own profit. He (Mr. Gibson) said the case was not in a position for ex post facto Legislation. The House should pledge itself to revise the gaming laws before it discontinued these actions. It had given the country no pledge that it would not continue these penalties. All that was proposed to be done was to relieve from the operation of a law which was constantly in operation certain powerful individuals, who, of all others, were the least entitled to plead ignorance of its existence, inasmuch as they themselves as Legislators assisted in the framing of the laws. Where was the guarantee that the House was desirous to remove obsolete and antiquated laws from the statute-bock? The reports of the inspectors of prisons stated that magistrates were in the habit of resuscitating old statutes for the purpose of coercion; and the House did not repeal those statutes or indemnity those who had violated them. The report of the inspectors of prisons for the northern and eastern district of Lancashire mentioned the case of an individual who had been imprisoned for ten weeks, having been summarily convicted before two magistrates for having neglected to attend divine worship on a Sunday, without a reasonable excuse, and adjuged to pay a fine of 1s., and 14s. costs, or in default to be imprisoned. This case had been brought forward by the hon. Member for Pomfret, and yet no bill had been brought in to remedy the evil. There were other parties who had been confined for nonattendance at Church, one for sixty-three days, another for sixty-one days, another sixteen days, another twelve, another seventeen, another two, another sixteen, another twenty-six, another three, another twenty-seven, and another for three days, and when these people were released, it was not on the ground of their having been imprisoned for a longperiod—no, there was no leniency shown; it was on payment of the fine and costs. It was 799 believed in the country that the spirit of Legislation in Parliament was to legislate for themselves, and that there was no activity in either House, unless something took place which affected the interests of the Members themselves. They were told that a general sanction of persons of all classes to a practice repealed the law against the practice, although it might be illegal. What were they doing in Ireland? He considered that in the prosecutions in Ireland the Government were proceeding under an obsolete statute, or at least in a way which the people had not been prepared to expect. The people had been in the habit of attending at public meetings which were sanctioned by the presence of all parties—the high and the low—the Peer as well as the artisan—Legislators and Ministers of State, subscribing to public associations, and on a sudden advantage was taken of an obsolete and antiquated statute to put a stop to such proceedings. The case of these parties was similar. The great injustice of the proceedings in Ireland was, that the people were told that although the conduct which they pursued had been sanctioned by the countenance of their superiors and their rulers, they should now be held amenable to some law about which.—like this one—there was considerable doubt. Did the Government dare to prosecute the Anti-Corn-law League, although they called it a conspiracy—or the League to which a Cabinet Minister had subscribed a hundred guineas. They did not administer the law in such a manner as to leave the world to suppose that it was framed with a view to equality of its application to all classes of Her Majesty's subjects. He should press his amendment to a division, because the decision for or against a committee to revise the gaming-laws would show how far the Members of that House were in earnest, and whether they desired to abolish penalties upon every description of gambling, whether on sports or cards, or only upon those descriptions in which their own class was concerned. He had been requested by different parties for whom he had the highest esteem to take two opposite courses, but he should adopt that which his conscience declared to be right, without reference to the object of pleasing one section or another of his constituents. He presumed that this was a Cabinet question, that the act of 800 Parliament had undergone revision and received the consideration of the Government. It had received the countenance of the House of Lords. No Minister of the Crown had objected to its passing into a law, and he thought the House was entitled—in a case of such vast importance—for he considered any interference with proceedings in a court of law to be of importance—the House was entitled to have the deliberate opinion, not only of the Prime Minister (if he were present), but of the law-officers of the Crown, as to the propriety of this proceeding. If this specimen of ex post facto legislation were to pass into a law, the Ministers of the Crown were bound to take upon their own shoulders the responsibility of voting either in favour of or against the bill. The right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government guided his party; they followed him in the most docile manner; he could make this bill law, or throw it out, by his own individual influence; and being placed in a situation of such vast importance and responsibility, he should be sorry to think that the right hon. Gentleman would shrink from the performance of his duty from an unwillingness to offend the prejudices of his friends. He regretted that he did not see present some Gentlemen who seemed to arrogate to themselves the exclusive guardianship of the religion and morality of the country. It was a remarkable coincidence that they should be absent on an occasion when their services were so much required, especially when their opinions might be in opposition to those of the Gentlemen by whom they were surrounded. Such coincidences happened to all—they had happened to himself sometimes, but still he said the country ought to have notice how Gentlemen voted on this question. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving as an amendment,That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the existing statutes against gaming of every kind and into the penalties enacted by them and whether the same, or any, and what part of those statutes have fallen into desuetude, or ought to be repealed.
§ Lord J. Manners
said, that he thought those who willingly transgressed the law ought to suffer the penalties of the law, but in the present case the offences had been committed unwittingly, and without a knowledge that they were against the 801 law. The hon. and gallant Member for Lincoln would have been considerably astonished some time ago, when the hon. Member for Cork proved, not only to his satisfaction but to the amusement of the whole House, that by a statute still unrepealed, the hon. and gallant Member was an Irishman, and ought to be punished accordingly. He would have been astonished if an action had been brought against him on the ground that that law was not repealed. He admitted that the law was very anomalous in many respects, and that some amendment was required, but he trusted the House would not accede to the proposition of the hon. Member, because the task to be imposed was so great that nothing short of a Justinian and Napoleon combined could perform it. But were they to wait until this could be done! No; let every individual case in which the hardship and injustice could be proved be remedied. He yielded to no one in a wish to see those laws abrogated which pressed unequally upon the poor and the rich, and he would do his utmost to rectify such a wrong. The hon. Member had alluded to the case of imprisonment for non-attendance at divine service, which case was brought prominently forward some time ago by the hon. Member for Pontefract. Now he begged the House to recollect that that law was but a remnant of what was a wise and consistent piece of legislation, however opposed it might be to the feelings of the day; and that the most beautiful and best part of it was abrogated, not by the ancestors of those whom the hon. Gentleman called the majority, but by his own political ancestors. He would with the greatest pleasure support the bill.
§ Captain F. F. Berkeley
entreated the House to pause before legislating with respect to gambling transactions, lest, by implication, it might be supposed that the House was about to protect these transactions. Of all the gambling transactions of the present day there were none, in his opinion, more mischievous, more dishonest, or in which there was greater cheating than those connected with the present system of horse-racing. It was the system of book-making which engendered most of the evils; and it was the consequence of that system that led, not more than twenty-five years ago, to a man being hung, for poisoning horses. Sooner than lend himself in any way to the continu- 802 ance of that system, he would vote for the amendment of the hon. Member behind him. It was a very common saying among those connected with the turf, that unless a man went on the turf determined to be a rogue he must be a fool. Under the old system there was not the same dishonesty. He was sorry to perceive, that while the schedule attached to the end of the bill related to the sports of the rich and powerful, it did not make any allusion to the sports of the poor. It was unfair to introduce this portion as a manly sports' bill; it was no such thing; and if it was not against the rules of the House, he would now move that the Debate be Adjourned, in order that the House might proceed with the Adjourned Debate on Ireland.
§ Mr. Milnes
hoped, that the hon. Gentlemen opposite, and the House would keep clearly before them the question at issue. No man could wish to see the Noblemen and Gentlemen against whom these actions were brought, convicted in the enormous penalties they might be liable to under the act. Why not pass a bill for the distinct purpose of relieving them? And why not at the same time show their respect for the hon. Gentleman who moved the amendment by granting a select committee to inquire into these matters under the superintendence and judgment of that hon. Member?
Mr. V. Smith
could not agree with the hon. Gentleman in considering this as a question relating merely to what he called certain vexatious and improper proceedings in a court of law. They had to consider whether it were a question for the House to entertain, and whether it were properly speaking, a question which affected the public morality, and whether they had any proof of what was stated in the preamble of the bill. If the hon. Gentleman opposite had asked him at any club his opinion on this question, he very likely would have told him that he should be sorry if the enormous penalties were exacted; but when a bill was brought before the House of Commons, in order that certain gentlemen should be relieved from the consequences of a breach of the law, he thought they ought to consider whether it was a question which the House could entertain. He did not think it was. There might be some benefit in horse-racing in regard to preserving an excellent breed of horses in the country; but he 803 was sure no man could say that the system of betting was at all conducive to public morality. They were now called on to legislate on the simple assertion of the hon. Gentleman opposite, that certain persons had offended against the law; but it was not for the House of Commons to decide on the mere assertion of an hon. Member, that these parties were innocent of the crime committed. The other House had referred the question to a committee, and had proceeded on its report. Why had not that report been laid on the Table of that House; or why should they not follow the example of the other House, and refer the whole question to a committee? It was quite unparliamentary to proceed with the bill under present circumstances, as there was no proof offered in support of the preamble of the bill.
was prepared to state, that the parties against whom the actions were brought were perfectly unconscious of having transgressed the laws. The House ought to bear in mind that betting was only illegal, according to the act of Anne, when the bets were taken on an illegal subject.
§ Mr. Hume
was surprised, that the right hon. Gentlemen opposite, who were always inclined to pass acts of Parliament to promote morality, should seek to relieve the parties in the present case from the penalties which they had incurred by infringing the law of the land. It appeared that betting on horse races had increased to an enormous extent, and he had moved for a return, which he had no doubt would show the gross immorality engendered by the system of betting on horse races. He had been told that many noblemen and gentlemen had been guilty of acts arising out of betting which would disgrace any class of society. He did not believe it, but it appeared that the parties who had brought these actions were prepared to prove it. He trusted the House would not pass this bill, which would annul the actions altogether. A better plan would be to adopt the course pursued in 1818, and suspend the actions for three months. The present bill gave power to every individual against whom a similar action might be brought to call on the judge to dismiss the action on payment of the costs. If the House should agree to this bill, they would release the parties from the penalties they had incurred, and they would hear nothing more about any re- 804 medy for the evils involved in the system of betting. The Government ought to state its opinion on this subject, and he felt glad that the hon. Member for Gloucester had moved the adjournment of this debate, as this would afford an opportunity to the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government, who, he regretted to say, was not now in the House, to state his opinion on the subject. The law made certain acts criminal, and he thought it a monstrous thing for any man—much more for any man who had a share in making the laws—to seek to escape from the penalties imposed by the law on the commission of such acts. The eyes of the country were upon them; an impression prevailed, that in that House they legislated for a class only; and they should take care how they did anything that might confirm that impression. In conclusion, he begged to say, that he entirely agreed in the observations of his hon. Friend, who had so ably brought forward the amendment.
§ The Attorney-General
had a few observations to offer to the House. If the hon. Gentleman, the Member for Montrose, had looked into the clauses of the bill, he would see that it made express provision to meet the point to which he had adverted. The bill expressly provided that the operation of the act should not extend beyond the space of three months from the period of its passing, and that nothing contained in it could apply to any proceedings that might take place after the lapse of that time. Although the bill would put a stop to the present actions, there was nothing in it to prevent similar actions from being brought hereafter unless Parliament should think fit to pass some general law upon the subject. He should, therefore, certainly vote for the bill. He believed, that it would effect the object which the hon. Member for Montrose had in view—namely, that of suspending the present proceedings; and if the hon. Gentleman should think fit, when the bill went into Committee, to move the substitution of the word "suspend" for the word "discontinue," it would be perfectly open to him to take that course. He should not deal fairly with the House if he did not add another observation. He agreed in much of what had fallen from the hon. Member for Manchester, respecting the practice of gambling, and the present state of the 805 law as regarded that practice. But he did not propose to go with the hon. Member into the discussion of obsolete acts, or acts which oppressed the poor, or into the Irish debate, or into the question of the excise and customs. He was, however, willing to assist the hon. Member at any time, either in public or in private, to get rid of any obsolete act, or of any act obsolete or not, that pressed upon the poor. And he could say with the noble Lord the Member for Newark, that the observations of the hon. Gentleman upon that subject did not apply to him. He had taken every occasion of showing that from those observations of the hon. Gentleman he did not dissent. But he should also say, that it had become a sort of established practice in Parliament, whether right or wrong, that whenever a law had slept, or had, if recently introduced, been misunderstood,—whenever any parties had, by their ignorance of such laws exposed themselves to penalties,—whenever it could be fairly inferred that those parties had, without any fault of theirs, been misled,—it had been the practice of the House to interpose and to afford them relief. That had been done in many instances. He had himself felt it his duty to introduce, two years ago, a bill exempting parties from the penalties to which they had exposed themselves by having unintentionally sinned against the Municipal Regulations Bill. Now, when he found such a practice established, he should not hesitate to carry it out, without any reference to his opinions as to the particular practice to which the law might apply. It had been said, however, that it was doubtful whether those parties were or were not liable to the parties sought to be recovered, and an hon. Gentleman had asked why they should not in that case let the law take its course. But was there any sane man who would wish to go to law with a doubt about a sum of 500,000l.? In conclusion, he had only to express a hope that the House would allow the present measure to pass into a law, and he should hereafter be ready to consider the whole subject.
§ Mr. C. Berkeley
said, that the only fault he found with the bill was, that it did not go far enough. He thought, that they should not endeavour to legalise the sports of the rich only, but that they should extend the same favour to the poor. He should, therefore, give notice, that in 806 the committee on the bill, he would move that it should extend to the 6th William 4th, chap. 59.
§ The Motion to adjourn the debate having been withdrawn, the House divided on the question that the words proposed to be left out stand part of the question:—Ayes 112; Noes 25; Majority 87.
|List of the AYES.|
|Ackers, J.||Granger, T. C.|
|Alford, Lord||Gregory, W. H.|
|Allix, J. P.||Hamilton, J.|
|Antrobus, E.||Herbert, hon. S.|
|Archdall, Capt.||Hinde, J. H.|
|Arundell and Surrey, Earl of||Hodgson, R.|
|Hope, G. W.|
|Baillie, Col.||Hornby, J.|
|Baird, W.||Hussey, A.|
|Baring, F. T.||Hutt, W.|
|Barnard, E. G.||Irving, J.|
|Barrington, Lord||Jermyn, Earl|
|Beresford, Major||Knatchbull, Sir E.|
|Berkeley, hon. C.||Langston, J. H.|
|Berkeley, hon. C.||Leveson, Lord|
|Boldero, H.||Lincoln, Earl of|
|Borthwick, P.||Lindsay, H. H.|
|Bradshaw, J.||Lockhart, W.|
|Bramston, T.||Mackenzie, W.|
|Broadley, H.||Macnamara, W.|
|Bruges, W. H. L.||M'Neill, D.|
|Buckley, E.||Manners, Lord|
|Buller, C.||Milnes, R. M.|
|Burrell, Sir C.||Morris, D.|
|Butler, hon. Col.||Munday, E. M.|
|Butler, P. S.||Murphy, F. S.|
|Cocharne, A.||Murray, A.|
|Colborne, hon. W.||Nicholl, J.|
|Collett, W. R.||Northland, Lord|
|Coote, Sir C. H.||Oswald, A.|
|Cripps, W.||Pakington, J. S.|
|Darby, G.||Palmerston, Visct.|
|Disraeli, B.||Pigot, Sir R.|
|Dodd, G.||Pollock, Sir F.|
|Dundas, F.||Power, J.|
|Eaton, R.||Pringle, A.|
|Eliot, Lord||Repton, G. W.|
|Etwall, R.||Ross, D. R.|
|Evans, W.||Rushbrooke, R.|
|Ferguson, Col.||Scott, hon. F.|
|Ferguson, Sir R.||Seymour, Sir H.|
|Ferrand, W. B.||Shelburne, Earl|
|Flower, Sir. J.||Somerset, Lord|
|Forester, hon, G.||Stanton, W. H.|
|Forester, M.||Stewart, J.|
|Fox, S. L.||Stuart, W. V.|
|Fuller, A. E.||Stuart, H.|
|Gaskell, J. Milnes||Strickland, Sir G.|
|Gisborne, T.||Sutton, hon. H.|
|Gladstone, W. E.||Thesiger, F.|
|Gore, M.||Tollemache, J.|
|Gore, W. R. O.||Trench, Sir F.|
|Gore, hon. R.||Waddington, H.|
|Goulburn, H.||Walker, R.|
|Graham, Sir J.||Wall, C. B.|
|Wortley, hon. J.||TELLERS.|
|Yorke, hon. E.||Wortley, J. S.|
|Young, J.||Peel, Col.|
|List of theNOES.|
|Berkeley, Capt.||Philips, M.|
|Blewitt, R. J.||Philpots, J.|
|Brocklehurst, J.||Plumridge, J.|
|Brotherton, J.||Scholefield, J.|
|Busfield, W.||Smith, B.|
|Childers, J. W.||Stansfield, W. R.|
|Clements, Lord||Thornely, T.|
|Duncan, G.||Trelawny, J. S.|
|Gill, T.||Turner, E.|
|Hawes, B.||Villiers, hon. C.|
|Hindley, C.||Wawn, J. T.|
|Marsland, H.||Gibson, M.|
|Mitchell, T. A.||Pechell, Capt.|
§ On the question that the Bill be now read a second time,
§ Sir J. Graham
could not answer that question, which had no connection with the present bill. As he was on his legs, perhaps the hon. Member for Manchester would allow him to inform him, with respect to the fines imposed for non-attendance on Divine Service, that the Government, in the Ecclesiastical Courts Bill proposed by them last Session, which unfortunately did not become law, introduced a clause respecting the statute alluded to by the hon. Member. The bill introduced into the other House, in the preparation of which he (Sir J. Graham) had participated, also contained a clause respecting the statute in question.
§ Mr. M. Gibson
did not understand that any pledge had been given, that these gentlemen should come under the operation of the bill. He wished for a distinct answer on this point. What had the informer done to forfeit his right of action or his claim to the penalties? He wanted to know whether the informer was to be saddled with all the expenses of this action? He was aware that the bill gave the informer what the lawyers call the costs out of pocket; but that was only a small item in the expenditure. It was, in fact, a speculation on the part of the informer, for the purpose of getting a portion of the penalties, in order to obtain which he was compelled to incur divers expenses. Were they to have any evidence called in this action? Wright was heard by counsel at the bar. He laid his gains at 8,000l. They had no right to take the character 808 of the man into consideration. Wright's information was for the commission of an act which was less a violation of the law of the land than the present acts. He protested against being deterred by class feeling from doing even-handed justice. He insisted on three pledges—first, that a committee should be appointed; secondly, that this action should only be suspended; thirdly, that the parties should not be allowed to escape in the interval between the new law and the old. He did not think they were dealing with the question in a just and proper manner, and until he heard something further he should feel it his duty to move that they should hear evidence on this Bill before they dealt with the pecuniary interests of parties not before them.
§ Sir J. Graham
confessed that he had had some difficulty in making up his mind as to the course to be pursued. He thought there would be considerable hardship in absolutely discontinuing this action on the simple payment of the costs out of pocket. In his opinion the best course was that which had been suggested, namely, instead of discontinuing the action, to suspend it in the position in which it now stood, pending the inquiry about to be instituted. He certainly had understood his hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-general to say that if this Bill should be read a second time, it would be quite open for any hon. Member to propose in Committee the suspension of the actions. Should such a proposition be made it should have his support.
§ Mr. S. Wortley
, in common with the Attorney-general, understood the Bill to stop the action for three months, leaving the parties at the expiration of that period at liberty to pursue their own course. Should, however, any doubt exist on the subject, he should have no objection to concur in a resolution for suspending the action.
§ Bill read a second time, and ordered to be committed.