MR. SMITH O'BRIEN
stated that he held in his hand for presentation a petition from certain electors of Galway, complaining against the election of the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (Mr. Monahan). The hon. Member proceeded at some length to observe that the present was the last day upon which the petition could be presented, and the prayer of it was that time might be allowed to amend the recognizances and the affidavits of the sureties. By the recent Act which had been passed with respect to disputed elections, it was necessary that the recognizances should be presented to the examiner, whose duty it was to ascertain that they were made out in the prescribed form, and to endorse them, if they were found to be within the provisions of the Act. In the present case the affidavits of the sureties, Messrs. Thomas Francis Meagher and Charles Gavan Duffy, were objected to by the examiner, on the ground of a flaw, viz., that they swore they were worth the sum of 500l. each, whereas they should have sworn that they were seised and possessed of property to the extent of 500l. The question at issue, then, was, whether "worth 50l.," was similar to being seised of an estate of the value of 500l. He had been told that it was, and that the recognizances could be put in suit under those circumstances; and believing that all indulgence ought to be extended in a case of this sort, where the time for completing the petition was so short, and the distance between the place of election and the metropolis so very considerable, he hoped the House would grant the prayer of the petitioners, and permit the time to be extended in order to amend the recognizances. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving a resolution to that effect.
The ATTORNEY GENERAL
apprehended that the House could not accede either to the prayer of the petitioners or to the Motion of the hon. Member for Limerick, for the decision of the examiner was declared by the Act of Parliament to be final and conclusive. The Act of 7th 1071 and 8th Victoria, c. 103, distinctly provided that the recognizances should be entered into within fourteen days, and that certain sureties should perfect their recognizances in a given form, and should swear that they were seised or possessed of real or personal property to the amount of 500l. The wording of the Act evidently contemplated that the possession should not be merely of a temporary character. The 14th section of the same Act expressly enacted that the decision of the examiner should be final and conclusive. He submitted, then, that the hon. Member for Limerick had no locus standi, and the indulgence prayed could not be granted by the House.
§ MR. M'CARTHY
thought it was mere special pleading to cavil at the construction of the word "worth," and its meaning as compared with the terms "seised or possessed." He hoped the House would consent to the Motion of his hon. Friend, and grant time to amend the recognizances.
§ SIR R. PEEL
said, that he was the person who had introduced the Act alluded to, the main object of which was to prevent appeals to the House from the decisions of competent authorities. Two authorities had been appointed—one examiner of recognizances, whose duty it was to see that the recognizances were entered into in due compliance with the provisions of the Act; and the other a Select Committee; and in both cases the decision was made final and conclusive against all parties. This was done on purpose to exclude any party considerations being brought to bear on such subjects within the House. He thought the examiner of recognizances had acted properly in refusing the petition. The Act stated, that the object of the recognizance was to make the party subject to pain of from 500l. to 1,000l., to be levied on his respective goods and chattels, lands, and tenements. It became necessary, therefore, that the party should swear, not according to his own discretion, that he was worth 500l., but expressly that he was seised or possessed of real or personal estate equal to that sum, and above what would satisfy all his debts. A person might swear that he was worth 500l., because another person might owe him that sum; but that was a different thing from swearing that he was actually seised of goods and chattels, or real property, enabling him to pay that sum. It was necessary, therefore, in order to com- 1072 ply with the intentions of the Act, that every person on entering his recognizance before the person by whom that recognizance was to be taken, should swear that he was seised or possessed of real or personal estate to the amount required. If the parties concerned did not do that, it was impossible that the House could entertain a petition such as the present. Nothing could be more dangerous than for the House to sanction such a laxity in its proceedings. The intentions of the Act and its design would be best inferred by those extrinsic authorities who were influenced by no party or personal considerations, and the House would be saved the odium of deciding questions of this kind by a majority. He (Sir R. Peel) must, for one, advise the House to decline assuming a jurisdiction which they had already transferred to another authority.
§ MR. MORGAN O'CONNELL
said, it was very unpleasant to discuss a question of this kind on such very short notice. His first impression was, that it was the best plan to have the debate adjourned; but the Attorney General having given so decided an opinion upon the matter, his (Mr. M. O'Connell's) intention was shaken in that respect. He thought, however, that the House ought to be cautious in deciding a matter of this kind hastily, because, in the first place, there was a great principle at stake; and, secondly, because, upon such a subject, the House were in danger of having their actions misconstrued. On these grounds, he was anxious that the further consideration of the subject should be postponed until the next sitting of the House.
MR. SMITH O'BRIEN,
in reply, said the giving in of the recognizances was only a preliminary proceeding, after which a day was generally appointed to examine whether the securities were or were not bonâ fide. On that transaction the decision of the examiner of recognizances would of course be final; but in this preliminary stage no damage could be done to either party. In point of fact, the House was now resting on a mere technicality in opposition to law and justice—a technicality which would be scouted in any court of law—for the purpose of preventing parties from being heard who had charged an officer of the Crown with corrupt practices. That was a proceeding to which the House of Commons should not be a party. He would not, after what he had heard, divide the House upon the question, but would 1073 throw on them the responsibility of rejecting the petition.
§ Motion negatived.
§ The House adjourned at Two o'clock.