HC Deb 23 March 1848 vol 97 cc918-64

said: In rising to move for leave to bring in the Bill of which I have given notice, I shall offer no apology for asking the attention of the House to the statements which I am about to make; except so far as an apology may, perhaps, be thought necessary, because I have so long delayed to bring before the attention of the House the question upon which I asked and obtained a Select Committee three years ago. I hope and believe, however, that the delay which has taken place has not been prejudicial to the question, or to the views which I hold upon it. I am am afraid that I shall, upon this occasion, be compelled to claim more of the time of the House than I am usually in the habit of occupying, or ever desire to occupy; but having to ask the House to consent to a complete reversal of a policy which it has pursued for a very long period, I think I am bound to submit such a case as I may be able to make out, in order to justify that change of policy. I feel, moreover, that the question is one of so grave a character that I have a right to ask the House to attend to the case which I shall submit to it, before it concludes to reject the proposition to which I am now about to ask its attention.

It is now about three years ago—it was in the year 1845—that I first brought the question of the game laws before the House, and succeeded in obtaining a Select Committee to inquire into the operation of that portion of our laws. Those hon. Gentlemen who were Members of the House at that time, will bear me witness when I state, that, in obtaining that Committee, I was anxious that it should be composed, not of men entirely agreeing with me in opinion upon the subject, but of those also who took a different view of the matter; so that there might be the greatest possible guarantee for a searching and impartial investigation into the whole question. To show how far I was from being desirous of having a one-sided Committee, or a Committee composed mainly of persons holding my own views, I consented that those who entirely disagreed with the opinions which I entertained upon the game laws, should form a majority of the members of that Committee. The Committee then appointed was, accordingly, so constituted; and, in order to prove to the House that the inquiry into the subject has been as full as it could be made, I need only state, that during the sittings of that Committee about sixty witnesses were examined. Of that portion of the witnesses called, chiefly by myself, and at the suggestion of those inclined to my opinion upon this question, not less than twenty-one were tenant-farmers; and I can safely say, that I believe they were tenant-farmers of the highest character, and of the most unimpeachable veracity.

I am willing to admit, in the very outset of my observations, that the Bill which I am about to propose to the House, makes no pretension whatever to be based upon the report of the Committee to which I have referred; but, at the same time, I confidently assert that it is based upon the general tenor of the evidence given before that Committee—and that, although I have the misfortune to disagree with the majority of the Gentlemen by whom that report was agreed to, yet I feel perfectly satisfied that the measure I am now about to propose, is the only one which, after an impartial view—as impartial as I am able to take—of the question and of the evidence, the House should come upon the evidence so given before that Committee.

In the year 1845, when I brought forward this question, the House did me the favour to listen to a rather lengthened statement which I then made. It was manifest on that occasion, that the subject was somewhat new to the House, and that I had treated it in a manner in which it had not been treated before. At the conclusion of the speech which I then made, the right hon. Baronet the Member for Ripon (Sir J. Graham), then Secretary for the Home Department, rose and consented to the appointment of the Committee; but in the course of his remarks, he expressed the greatest possible incredulity with regard to the statements and facts which I had submitted to the House. He said, moreover, that he should be extremely glad to see some of the parties whose allegations I had introduced, brought before the Committee, and cross-examined, with reference to the amount of injury to agricultural produce inflicted upon farmers by game, and also with reference to the other charges which I had brought against the game laws, and the existing system of; game preservation. It appeared to be the opinion of the then Home Secretary, that the cases which I had brought forward were greatly exaggerated—an opinion which also appeared to be participated in by a considerable number of hon. Gentlemen, and especially by those Members who were then sitting on the Ministerial side of the House: but I am prepared to-night to show, that there was not a single statement made by me at that time which has not since, not only been completely borne out by the evidence of witnesses of unimpeachable character before the Committee, but that, in point of fact, the allegations which I then submitted to the House were very much below the real facts and statements which were made and proved in the course of the investigation entered into by the Committee.

Now I wish to ask the attention of the House to some of the cases which were brought before that Committee, and especially with reference to the amount of agricultural injury, and the damage to agricultural produce, which is sustained by farmers from the practice of preserving game, so extensively as it is now preserved, by the landed proprietors of this country. The witnesses who were examined upon that branch of the question, were almost exclusively tenant-farmers. I beg the House to bear in mind the important fact, that of all the witnesses brought up in favour of the game laws, there was only one who had any pretension whatever to the name of a tenant-farmer; and he was not brought up because he was a tenant-farmer, but because he was also agent to a landed proprietor in the county of Sussex, one of whose tenants had previously been examined before the Committee. As I stated before, the tenant-farmers who were brought before the Committee, were men of most respectable character; and I confess that the favourable opinion I have always entertained of the tenant-farmers of this country, was even enhanced by the intelligence and the general bearing of that class of the witnesses examined before the Committee.

The first witness to whose evidence I shall call the attention of the House, is Mr. Bates, who was recently the tenant of Luton Park Farm, in the county of Bedford. That gentleman stated, and proved to the Committee, that upon thirty acres of wheat, he had no less than 118l. awarded to him as the amount of damage committed upon that quantity of land by the game. Now, that may appear a large sum; but I beg the House to observe, that the statements of all the tenant-farmers who were examined before the Committee—those who came from Fifeshire in the north, and Dorsetshire in the south-west—all coincided in the view taken by Mr. Bates as to the amount of damage caused to the crops by game. The evidence of men altogether unknown to each other, and who came to the Committee from different parts of the country, without the slightest concert, was to the same effect, so that the evidence of one man may be taken as a guarantee of the correctness of another.

Mr. Hodding, a tenant-farmer in the neighbourhood of Salisbury, proved, that upon 45 acres of wheat, he sustained a damage of not less than 172l.; and that, in the four years previous to 1845, the loss upon his wheat and barley crops alone, amounted to 460l, or an average of 115l. per annum, without taking into account the damage done to the young turnips and green crops. Another witness from the same neighbourhood, Mr. Bell of Salisbury, stated, that the damage which he sustained on 223 acres, in 1844, amounted in value to 416l. Mr. Chambers of Beachemwell, in the county of Norfolk—and I dare say, there are Gentlemen in this House who are acquainted with the name of this and of several other witnesses, whose evidence I shall bring before the House—Mr. Chambers, who is a very large farmer, and who, I believe, rents not less than 5,000 or 6,000 acres, stated, that his loss from injury done by game in one year was equal to 1,000l. Mr. Sewell, of Swaffham, in the county of Norfolk, who is also, I believe, a farmer of the very highest character, and the extent of whose farm may be judged from his rent, which is 1,024l. per annum—states that the damage which he sustained in one year on 700 acres, was not less than 700l. Mr. J. W. Cooper, a most intelligent farmer, residing in the neighbourhood of Bury St. Edmunds, states, that in November, 1844, he had thirty acres of wheat so much injured by winged game, that he was compelled to plough it up, and thereby sustained a loss of 120l.

I hope the House will bear that fact in mind, because I know perfectly well that it will be stated in the course of the observations which certain Members will make in opposition to this Motion, that the tenant-farmers suffer no injury from winged game. Now, Mr. Cooper states, that his annual taxation was not more than 111l.; but yet he believed, that in 1844, the amount of damage which his farm sustained from game was equal to about double the amount of that annual taxation. Another tenant-farmer, Mr. W. Marris, who resides near Louth, in Lincolnshire, states, that he held a farm under the Duke of Newcastle, and that, in 1843, upon twenty-three acres of wheat, he estimated that the damage which he sustained from game, amounted to about 150l.; and that he believed the average amount of loss which he endured in consequence of this system was 5s. per acre on the whole farm, or 180l. per annum; whereas his local and general taxes did not amount to more than 100l. per annum. There was also another farmer from Lincolnshire—and as I understand that an hon. Member from that county (Colonel Sibthorp) is likely to take some part in opposition to the Motion which I am now submitting to the House—I beg to call his attention to the statement of facts given by farmers from that very county, from men, I believe, of the very first respectability.

The farmer to whose case I am about to refer, occupies a farm at Kettleby Thorpe, in Lincolnshire; and the number of acres which he rents is 500. In 1844, that gentleman estimated his loss from game at the sum of 240l. Seven acres of wheat were stated to have been totally destroyed during that year by the game. From the evidence of another farmer, Mr. A. Gordon, who was deputed by the Wen- lock Farmers' Club, in the county of Salop, to make a representation to the Committee on the subject, it appears that on thirty-four acres of his own farm, he sustained a loss from game, in 1841, of 239l.; in 1842, upon ten acres, he sustained a loss of 65l.; and that, in 1845, on forty-five acres, he sustained a loss of 114l.

I now come to the evidence of a witness from Worcestershire, Mr. Woodward, who farms 500 acres, as a tenant under Lord Coventry, and 200 acres of his own property in addition. That witness stated, that, in 1844, his loss from game, upon the land which he holds under Lord Coventry, was not less than 200l.

Mr. Landale, a surveyor, from Kirkaldy in Fifeshire, stated to the Committee, that on the estate of Captain Wemyss there was paid, by agreement, for damage done on six farms, including 1,059 Scotch acres, in 1841,659l.; and in 1844, nearly 1,000l.; the amount of which damage was paid for by Captain Wemyss, in pursuance of an agreement which was contained in the leases of the tenants. Again, the hon. Member for Berkshire (Mr. Pusey) declared to the Committee— But I have a strong case now of injury to wheat, which occurred only two years ago. A tenant of mine came to tell me that he must give up his farm; he was a very improving tenant indeed. I asked him why; he said the injury which he received from the game was such that he could stand it no longer. There was a piece of sixty or seventy acres of wheat, and he told me that it had been completely fed away by game from a neighbouring cover; and he asked me to go over it. I did so, and I can state positively to the Committee, that half of that field I should not have known had any crop at all upon it; this was light land. I said to the tenant that his loss should be valued; and I paid him the loss; I think it was valued at about 40l., but I doubt very much whether that by any means covered his loss; he said himself that he lost about a quarter per acre. The hon. Member also stated— I have not the least hesitation in saying the land of a small proprietor, in the neighbourhood of a large cover, might be injured to the extent of 50 per cent at least on the rental; indeed, it might be rendered almost useless to cultivate it. That puts me in mind of another thing; one of the points which made me come to the determination of giving up preserving was, finding that my own keeper, who had got three or four acres of land near his house in the covers, after cultivating for eight or ten years, said at last that he must give it up because it did not pay him; it would ruin him; and then it occurred to me to consider what was the case with my keeper's neighbours round the covers. There is another case, which occurred on the estate of the Duke of Rutland, at Bakewell in Derbyshire. In that case surveyors were employed to make an estimate of the damage done by game, not to the grass crops, but to the grain crops only. The damage done to turnip crops, lentils, clover seeds, meadow and pasture, has never been taken into account. Mr. Gauntley, the witness, says— The damage done to meadow land in the neighbourhood of the covers may be stated at from 5s. to 20s. per acre. In the summer of 1844, that portion of arable land growing corn contained 389 acres, and the sum of 916l. was allowed for the damage done by game, as per tabular statement annexed. In the previous year (1843), 395 acres were in corn, and the sum of 897l. was paid for damages, averaging 46s. per acre on the whole quantity of corn land, varying from nothing to nearly 10l. per acre. Now the only tenant-farmer called before the Committee by those Members of it who differ from me upon this question, was Mr. Turner, of Sussex, the agent, I believe, of Sir John Shelley; and Mr. Turner was examined only with a view to elicit from him a denial or explanation of certain statements made by another tenant upon the same property. He was asked— Take the case of Mr. Haywood, would you think that a reduction of 20 per cent upon the rent was a compensation?—I should want that certainly, if the rabbits were always kept up. Do you think that you would be justified in taking a farm like this at 75l. at year, with hares and a large stock of rabbits, when you would pay for that farm 100l. a year if you had an undisputed right to take all the game.—Yes; I should rather give 100l., and clear the game. You would rather give 100l. and clear the game, than give 75l. and have the game?—Yes; if it were preserved strictly; it would depend upon the disposition of the landlord to preserve the game. In speaking upon this subject, in the year 1845, I stated in this House, that the tenants generally entertained a firm belief that it would not take a great many hares and rabbits to eat and destroy as much agricultural produce as a sheep. That opinion was verified before the Committee by the farmers, some of whom said that three or four hares would destroy as much food as one sheep. The evidence taken before the Committee fully substantiates the statement which I then made. It is true, indeed, that Lord Salisbury, himself a great game preserver, told the Committee, that he did not believe that even forty hares would destroy as much produce as one sheep; but such an extravagant statement only serves to show that the authority of Lord Salisbury upon this point is unworthy of the least consideration. I would much prefer the actual experiment and judgment founded upon experience of an honest and intelligent tenant-farmer, than the opinion of any game-preserving nobleman whatever. Amongst the various witnesses examined before the Committee, was Mr. George Gayford, an agriculturist of eminence in the neighbourhood of Thetford. This gentleman had, it appeared, tried an experiment of a very conclusive nature, and he was therefore summoned before the Committee to give evidence as to the result of that experiment. He had divided a building into two parts; in one he placed two sheep, and in the other twelve large rabbits. He kept them both there for twelve weeks, and fed them, as nearly as possible, with the very same description of food as they would have eaten at that season of the year, had they been at largo in the fields. He weighed them when first put in, and he weighed them again at the end of each fortnight, or four times in the course of the whole period, in order to ascertain how much they had gained or lost in weight. The following was the result. I am reading from the minutes taken before the Game Law Committee:— From this experiment it will be seen that in six weeks twelve rabbits consumed of oats, cut sanfoin, bran, carrots, and swede turnips, 33 bushels, 3 pecks, and 7 pints, weighing 68 stone, 74lbs., 14 oz., and valued at 18s. 2¾d., whilst during the same period, two sheep consumed only 25 bushels, 3 pecks, 9 pints, weighing 45 stone, 101 lbs., 3 oz., and valued at 13s. 9½d. The twelve rabbits thus exceeded the two sheep in consumption by 8 bushels of food, weighing nearly 23 stone, and valued at 4s. 5½d. It follows, from the above statement, that within a traction four and a half rabbits, during six weeks, consumed as much food as one sheep. It must also be recollected that if the rabbits had been at large, they would have destroyed or injured a great quantity of food in addition to that which they consumed; and many farmers are of opinion that the quantity destroyed and injured by game is not less than that which is actually consumed by them. I do not come hero to make any whining complaint on behalf of the tenant-farmers, for if they choose to subject themselves to these injuries by taking farms when the game is reserved to their landlords, I know not that I can be of any great service to them; but I state those facts, in addition to others which I shall presently bring before the House, for the purpose of proving that a change of policy in the legislation of the country is absolutely necessary with regard to this question. I come now to speak of the influence of the game laws upon agriculture, and agricultural prosperity; and upon this branch of the subject I will quote to the House, first of all, the opinion of Lord Hatherton, who is well known for his devotion to agriculture, and whose evidence I have no doubt the House will hold in the highest respect. Lord Hatherton stated to the Committee:— I found, to pursue the two occupations, a rigid preserver of hares and game generally, and an improver of my land by planting and farming, perfectly incompatible. Do you say that you had not land in your occupation when you first preserved game?—I had, but it was principally grass land; I had not begun to plough or to plant. I soon found, as a farmer desirous of introducing among my tenantry and into the neighbourhood a better system of cultivation, that it was utterly hopeless to do so unless I completely destroyed the hares; for the attempt merely to reduce them was useless, for a good season repaired their numbers to such an extent, that I found there was no effectual means but entire destruction. There is no reluctance on the part of the farmers to occupy those lands, on the terms on which they take them, referring to the power of destroying game?—None whatever; on the contrary, since I have destroyed it, I perceive there is an infinitely greater degree of confidence on the part of the tenants in their expenditure; and it has happened to mo, within the last two or three years, to have received indisputable evidence of my character as a destroyer of hares, it having turned very much to my account, in a better class of tenants having offered themselves for my farms when they have been vacant. If this was the opinion of only a single person, great weight might not perhaps be attached to it; but I unhesitatingly state, that every farmer to whom the question was put by the Committee, declared it to be his conviction that game preservation was exceedingly injurious to agriculture—that it interfered with the farmer's prospects of success—prevented the expenditure of capital on the land—furnished one of the greatest obstacles to improvement—and diminished the demand for labour. I will now intreat the House to attend, for a moment, to the case of a tenant, upon whose farm the game had been let to a third party. I cannot conceive anything more destructive to the interests of agriculture and of the tenantry of this country than such cases as that to which I am now about to call the attention of the House. The owner of the estate to which this refers is Sir Hanson Verney; the renter of the game was a Mr. Villebois; and the tenant of the farm was Mr. Lock, who had been previously examined by the Committee. I shall now quote again from the minutes of evidence. A question is put to Mr. Villebois:— What is your right over that land that Mr. Lock occupies; how far does your right of preserving and killing game extend?—I have the whole of the game; not a gun dare come upon that land without my leave. To what amount can you preserve game upon that land?—Any amount whatever; 10,000 partridges if I like to get them. And as many hares?—Yes; but I should not do it, for fear of injuring the farmers. You have the right?—I have the right of preserving to the utmost. All kinds of game?—All kinds of game. What right have you with respect to keepers, watchers, and assistants; have you the right to employ as many as you choose?—Yes; a whole regiment of guards, if I choose. Mr. Villebois, however, acknowledged that the tenant, Mr. Lock, was not perfectly satisfied with this arrangement; he stated that Mr. Lock was what was termed in the neighbourhood "bumptious;" in other words, I suppose he did not submit to all this injury without grumbling. Mr. Villebois stated that the three preceding tenants had been subjected to the same system, and that he had not had much trouble with them. I will give the questions and answers, as given before the Committee:— What were the circumstances under which they left?—The lease of one was out, and he wont somewhere else; and the other failed—I do not know where he is. There was more game preserved than there has been since Mr. Lock has been there?—Yes; I should say there was. One did not renew his lease, and the other two failed? Not two; but one went as a steward to the north. Then the facts of the case are these: there was more game before Mr. Lock was there; and of his three predecessors, one would not renew his lease and went to another place; another failed, and another became steward?—I believe so; but I do not trouble myself with the tenants after they leave the farm. It will be observed, that of Mr. Lock's three predecessors, one had left the farm when his lease was out; another had failed during his occupancy of the farm; and the third had left the farm and gone away somewhere to be a steward. Mr. Villebois says that he did not trouble himself much with the tenants after they left the farm. Now, I ask, is it possible for agriculture to thrive under such a system as this; and can such a system be encouraged by the Legislature, especially when our population is augmenting at so rapid a rate? Let it be borne in mind that the position of the tenant-farmer now is very different from what it was fifty or sixty years ago, when the farmer's crops were almost entirely the spontaneous and unassisted produce of the land. The tenant then occu- pied the land, took from it what it yielded, fed his cattle with it, or sold it in the market; but now the tenant has to pay two rents—one to the landlord for the use of the land, and the other in the shape of interest for the capital expended upon the land. It is notorious that the produce of the soil has frequently been doubled, trebled, or quadrupled by the expenditure of the tenant's capital upon the farm.

While the crops were but the unassisted produce of the land, the tenant might have had less reason to complain of the game taking a portion of his produce; but now, when by the application of his capital and industry, he has trebled or quadrupled the return of the land, it is intolerable that the landlord should still retain the right of stocking the land with game, and of destroying and devouring a portion, not only of the natural produce of the soil, but of that increased quantity which results from the outlay of the capital of the tenant. It was proved before the Committee, that where game is preserved with any degree of strictness, the damage done to the farmer by the destruction of his crops, exceeds the whole annual amount paid by him for income-tax, assessed taxes, poor-rates, highway rates, church rates, and county rates; in fact, the whole of the general and local taxes to which he is subjected, and which he pays in money, do not amount to so much in value as the injury he sustains by game wherever game is strictly preserved. An hon. Member whom I see opposite was formerly great on the subject of the burdens on land; but I have never heard him speak of this burden, and I am afraid that even now he will not unite with me in endeavouring to remove this heavy yoke from the shoulders of the tenant-famers. With regard to the general question of agricultural improvement, I will ask hon. Members who are proprietors of land, how they can expect their tenants to prosper, the land to be improved, their labourers to be employed, wages to be good, and contentment to prevail, so long as they adopt a policy with reference to the occupiers of the land which is not known in connexion with any other occupation, or any other portion of the people of this country? At present there are two interests connected with the land wholly opposed to each other, and altogether irreconcilable. The tenant, having taken a farm, stocks it with cattle, expends capital upon it, and employs his servants to superintend and look after his property, in order that he may have a return for his outlay and labour: but the landlord insists upon preserving his game. He also stocks the land; he has his servants likewise to look after his stock of game; he has gamekeepers and game-watchers in any number that he pleases, prowling over the land in the occupation of his tenant; and it is found by newspaper reports, and by evidence before a Parliamentary Committee, that the honest and meritorious tenantry of this country are daily subjected to the most insolent interference on the part of gamekeepers. Will it be believed, that in many parts they are not allowed even to keep a dog, unless it is one which possesses a very innocent cast of countenance. In many instances all their dogs are shot. They cannot keep a cat about their houses, for fear it should be found in some plantation; and they themselves and their sons are not permitted even to walk over their farms with a gun in their hands, without being exposed to suspicion and annoyance. I know well that it is impossible to make the farmer independent by law, unless he be determined to become so; but I contend that Parliament is not justified in longer maintaining a system which necessarily involves the degradation of the tenant. I am convinced that unless the cultivators of the soil have security for their capital, and are enabled to employ and pay their labourers, pauperism will constantly increase, and the depression of our rural population will remain undiminished.

I come now to a part of the question, which is perhaps more important than any to which I have hitherto adverted, namely, the mode of administration of the laws with regard to game. I stated three years ago, that the great body of the people, including the tenantry and peasantry in agricultural districts, have no confidence whatever in the administration of the game laws by county magistrates. Hon. Members opposite are exceedingly sore on this point, because the great majority of them are themselves county magistrates: but I shall treat the question in a general way, without bringing charges against any individual whatever. I confess, for myself, that were I a game preserver, and passionately fond of sporting, I could not trust myself with the administration of these laws; and I am persuaded that, whether intentionally or not, there is, in the administration of the game laws by the magistracy of this country, a great departure from the ordinary principles upon which the other laws of this realm are administered. One of the witnesses before the Game Committee was Mr. Philips, the Under Secretary of State for the Home Department. I quote from his evidence some facts which I think are of the greatest importance. That Gentleman is asked, in reference to the returns of commitments made to the Home Office— Have those more general returns led to any similar remark to that which was made upon the first return, namely, that many of the sentences were illegal?—From the 23rd of May, when the business began, to the 11th of last March, the returns amounted to 1,849 commitments. Those were commitments for non-payment of penalties under the game laws?—Yes. Of those cases a great many have been illegal; there have been forty discharges out of prison, under sentences clearly illegal, and there have been fourteen commutations of sentence besides. In the cases of those discharges you speak of out of prison, there was a free pardon of the Secretary of State?—A pardon. Were those discharges on account of mere technical objections to the conviction, or were they discharged on the ground that the conviction was a substantial injustice?—All the discharges were on the ground of the law having been actually violated, the sentences being against the law. There has been no instance in which a prisoner has been discharged because the commitment was defective in point of form. The Assessed Tax Act was passed for the purpose of obtaining revenue; but it is in operation nothing less than a Game Act; and is constantly used as such. Mr. Phillips was asked— You are of opinion that the Assessed Tax Act was not passed by the Legislature with a view to the suppression of poaching, but rather for the protection of the revenue?—Certainly. Are you of opinion that that law has been made use of by the magistrates in a different sense from that which was intended by the Legislature?—I have no doubt of it. I will mention one instance; two magistrates in the case to which I allude, convicted under the 23rd section of the Game Act: the very day after one of those magistrates proceeded against the man under the Certificate Act. There is another gentleman who was examined, whose opinion is worthy of the utmost attention; I allude to Captain Williams, inspector of prisoners, whose opportunities of ascertaining the facts upon this subject are probably not exceeded by those of any other man living. That gentleman, when questioned by the Committee with regard to the statements of certain chaplains of gaols, as to the administration of the game laws, as detailed in his Ninth Report, where those chaplains are understood to have stated, that prisoners con- fined for poaching have no idea that they have been guilty of any criminal acts, and that all attempts to bring to them a consciousness of guilt are ineffectual—Captain Williams is asked— Are there not statements in your Ninth Report of the opinions of chaplains of some of the gaols?—Yes; several. Are you prepared to state to the Committee that the opinion you have stated as being given by one or two chaplains is the general opinion amongst the chaplains, as far as you have come in contact with them?—I should say it was, amongst the chaplains and amongst the superior officers in prisons. Have the gaolers generally coincided in those opinions?—My impression is so. Have you observed, that prisoners after sentences under the game laws have acknowledged the justice of their sentence?—I do not think they ever acknowledge the justice of their sentence. Very few prisoners will ever acknowledge the justice of their sentence; but I think there is a much stronger feeling the other way among poachers than others. From your experience among the labouring population, and your knowledge of their feelings upon this matter, do you believe that they attach the same sort of immorality to poaching that they would attach to stealing?—Quite the reverse. Many times when I have spoken to them upon the subject of poaching, and warned them of the consequences, I have been replied to, 'Well, I am not here for stealing. I am not on the other side of the gaol.' You say you observed an influx of prisoners at particular seasons for offences under the Game Acts, in certain counties; can you mention those counties?—I should comprehend them generally under the agricultural counties. There is a general influx of prisoners at certain periods of the year above any others; when the game seasons begin, the class of offences connected therewith naturally increases. Have you compared the severity of the punishments for offences against the game laws with the punishment for offences of ether kinds, where such a comparison is capable of being made?—I should say that it was almost impossible for a person so constantly in communication with prisoners, but such comparison must have occurred to him. The cumulative penalties and the peculiarities of these laws, the length of the imprisonment and the severity of punishment, could not fail to strike my observation. Which county is the one in which you find the most prisoners for poaching; and in which do you consider the offence to be most rife?—Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, Suffolk, Norfolk, Rutland, Cambridgeshire, and Huntingdonshire. I may here observe, that the application of the game laws varies most remarkably in various districts. It seems entirely dependent upon the individual feeling of the landowners, and which I look upon as one of their most injurious consequences. In one place you have a person who will carry these laws to an extreme, and in the next you will have a person who will scarcely have anything to do with them. Do you find the same difference with respect to the administration of the law for offences of other kinds?—Certainly not. Then, how do you account for it that there is that difference with respect to the application of the game laws?—I think there is a feeling against them amongst many of the higher classes of society, and a strong and universal feeling of sympathy on the part of the middle classes of society with offenders of that description, Is it your opinion, as far as you have observed, that the course of game-law legislation, as it now exists, and the administration of the game laws, is running counter to the great mass of public opinion?—Yes, I should say it was. I have noticed that there is a very increasing feeling against it of late years; I think every year the feeling increases against it. With regard to the Assessed Taxes Act being used as a Game Act, Captain Williams stated— Upon my last visit to the county gaol at Derby, I found in the prison there a prisoner in the convicted misdemeant's ward; he was clothed in a prison dress picking oakum, and under the discipline of silence. I have copies of the conviction. He complained to me of having been illegally apprehended—that the warrant had not been shown to him at the time of his apprehension—and in the course of my investigation of his complaint, I felt it necessary to call the surveyor of taxes before me, to ascertain whether he had given instructions to the constable to employ the police generally, to apprehend him without a warrant whenever they could find him in the borough of Derby. The surveyor of taxes informed me that he had been obliged to proceed in this case; that he did not proceed against the people in this way for a surcharge, unless he was satisfied that they had funds to pay the penalty, as it was only giving him additional trouble, and it was a loss of money and time to him; that he was allowed three guineas in every case where he obtained payment of the surcharge; and that he never instituted proceedings against individuals of this description who could not pay, unless it was at the instance of a gamekeeper, or some gentleman, and that when a gentleman came to him, he thought it was his duty to interfere; that 'he thought he must interfere' were his words. If the House require any other evidence on this point, I will adduce the testimony of Lord Fitzhardinge, well known to he a great game preserver, and who was also examined before the Committee. With reference to the opinion of the magistrates, and the state of public opinion with regard to the game law, Lord Fitzhardinge speaks as follows:— And they have generally expressed the opinion that game does no harm, and that the game laws ought to be maintained?—Unquestionably; if you were to poll the whole of the magistracy, I should say that nine out of ten would be in favour of protection to game. But as far as you can observe, the feeling is very strong in the county of Gloucester about the game laws, as you say the magistrates are acting under the influence of a strong popular feeling?—I think they are so; I think there is not a magistrate in the county of Gloucester but would feel, when a game case is brought before him, that he shall be subject to being assailed as a magistrate. Now, if it be true, as Lord Fitzhardinge says, that nine out of ten of the magistrates, if they were polled, would be found to be in favour of the protection of game, I should like to know how the House can with safety trust the adjudication of offences under these laws to such a body of men? Such a fact, admitted and notorious, is calculated to destroy all faith in the administration of the law. Now what is the power which this class of magistrates have under these laws? I say what are the powers possessed, not by several, but by each individual magistrate under these laws? For a day trespass, one magistrate can subject a man to a fine of 40s. or two months' imprisonment. There may be nothing more than a vague presumption that the man was at the time in pursuit of game; it is not necessary that he should have taken or killed any game whatsoever. If five persons together are convicted of a day's trespass, each of them may be subjected to a fine of 5l., or three months' imprisonment with hard labour; or if a trespasser refuse to give his name, whether apprehended or not, he is liable to the same amount of punishment. Be it remembered that the whole of these punishments which I have now detailed, can be inflicted at the will of any one justice of the peace. Now observe the mode of administering the law. The judge upon the bench is a county magistrate, one of a class, nine out of ten of whom, according to the testimony of Lord Fitzhardinge, are in favour of protection to game. The witness is either a gamekeeper or an assistant gamekeeper; in many cases receiving, by means of the person who laid the information, a portion of the penalty. The culprit at the bar is a poor defenceless peasant, arraigned under suspicion of having been in pursuit of game, and too poor to supply himself with legal assistance in his defence. Now, I ask the House how it is possible under these circumstances, that a reverence for the law, and for its administration, is ever likely to grow up in the minds of our rural population? But I will now bring before the House that which has been said and done by Secretaries of State, in proof of this part of my case. I am sorry that the late Secretary for the Home Department is not at present in his place; for I may refer, in justification of what I have stated, to the conduct which he pursued while he held the office of Secretary of State for the Home Department. That right hon. Gentleman was so struck with the number of convictions under the game laws, that he issued an order that a copy of every committal to prison, under those laws, should be forwarded to the Home Office, that it might there be inspected, and that in case it should be found that any wrong had been done, care might be taken to have the matter immediately rectified. How far that was necessary, how far wrong was committed, and how far that wrong has been rectified, the House will already have learned from the statement of Mr. Philips, the Under Secretary for the Home Department. But, if I am not misinformed, the right hon. Baronet who now holds that distinguished office, has taken another step, which shows that he also is as much convinced as his predecessor, of the necessity of a change in the mode of administering the game laws; for I understand that right hon. Gentleman has ordered that all cases of night poaching shall in future be tried, not at the sessions, but at the assizes. [Sir G. GREY: Not ordered, but recommended.] The right hon. Baronet says it was not ordered, but recommended; but we all know that a recommendation from the Home Office, upon such a matter as this, is equal to a command, and will form the rule with respect to these cases throughout the country. The fact, then, that two Home Secretaries have felt a scrutiny to be necessary, is very significant; affording the greatest proof that in their opinion the game laws have not been administered with the same regularity and the same impartiality with with which the administration of other laws has been conducted.

I now come to the effect of these laws upon the morals of the labouring classes; and I trust the House will not consider that branch of the question as the least important, especially after the great display of feeling evinced by various sections of this House, on many occasions, on behalf of the labouring population. This is not a new charge which I am about to bring against the game laws; for I find that it was made so far back as the year 1797, and I have no doubt much farther back even than that; for when this question of the game laws was under discussion—not the present laws, but those which were then in existence—and I pledge myself to prove that no real amendment has taken place since—Mr. Fox, speaking at that time, stated, that the infraction of these laws prepared criminals for the infraction of all other laws; and almost every speech made during the whole of that discussion, admitted the great evils which arose from the existence of the game laws. But I will come to still higher and later testimony; I will refer to the reports of both Houses of Parliament.

In 1816 and in 1823, Select Committees of the House of Commons were appointed to inquire into this subject. In 1828, a Committee of the House of Lords was also appointed, and in their several reports it will be found, that the demoralising effect of the game laws is alluded to, in terms more or less strong. I hope the House will bear with me while I refer to one or two other proofs in corroboration of the statements I have made.

In the year 1827, a Select Committee was appointed to inquire into criminal committals and convictions; and I will quote from the report of that Committee, to show what the system of game preservation did in that day for the morality of the labouring classes:— The evidence taken before the Committee shows undeniably, that the great increase of preserves for game, which has taken place of late years, has tended materially to the increase of crime in particular districts; a pheasant or a hare is so easily taken, that a labourer only half employed, and ill-fed, cannot resist the temptation. Men of a wild character likewise have within their reach both the means of gratifying their love of sport and the means of disposing of their booty. Some are of opinion that if the sale of game were allowed by law, poaching would not be so frequently resorted to. Whether such a speculation be well founded or no, it appears to be the duty of the Legislature to listen to every rational proposal on the subject of the game laws, and rather to hazard an experiment which may fail, than to allow the present evils to continuo without any effort to counteract them. Many of the petty larcenies in the agricultural counties are to be attributed to the vicious habits created by poaching. That Committee was reappointed in 1828, and additional evidence was taken upon the subject; but did the Committee appointed in 1828, reverse the opinion expressed by the Committee in 1827? No; it confirmed it, in the strongest language. The report of that Committee states— The abundance of offenders against these laws, it must be repeated, is not owing so much to any increased severity of the laws, as to the immense increase in the quantity of game. There has been, of late years, a vast profusion of game exposed to the eyes and appetites of a poor and sometimes suffering class of the people. No wonder that if property exposed on the outside of shops is carried off by depredators, that pheasants and hares should be carried off by night and day. more especially when it is considered that according to several witnesses, the labourers have a notion that taking a pheasant or hare is no moral offence. That any change of law should materially diminish the number of poachers, is rather to be wished than expected. But if it were possible to diminish poaching, the Committee can have no doubt that a diminution of crime would follow. I have already alluded to the right hon. Baronet the Member for Ripon; and I am glad to have his opinion, given before the Committee of 1828, in favour of the views which I am now submitting to the House; and, I am sure the House will consider, with me, that whatever has been stated by him on this subject, was said with due thought and consideration, and is entitled to very great weight. The right hon. Baronet was examined before that Committee, and gave the following evidence:— I am myself a preserver of game, and being so I am bound to confess that the most fertile source of crime in my immediate neighbourhood is connected with game, and with the preservation of it. I think the lower orders, in common with the highest, have a love, a natural love, of the sport, even stimulated perhaps by the risks attendant on its gratification; in many cases also poverty is a strong inducement to commit the crime; but I should say that in my own immediate neighbourhood the love of the sport predominates over almost every other consideration. I have latterly preserved the game more strictly than it was heretofore preserved, especially pheasants. I would entreat the attention of the House to this part of the evidence, and especially the attention of those Gentlemen who are of opinion that winged game do no harm:— Winged game were almost unknown in that neighbourhood, and since I have so preserved, poaching has increased, notwithstanding all my efforts to prevent it, or rather perhaps in consequence of my efforts to increase the quantity of game. The tameness of these birds, seen constantly in the fields close to the road, is, I think, a great temptation to the lower orders to take them. On the whole, I should think poaching the cause rather than the consequence of criminal habits. In 1845, the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth, when I brought this question before the House, expressed his strong hope that a great deal of good might be done by the attention of the landed proprietors and game preservers being turned to this question; but he doubted whether much could be effected by any alteration of the law. I think the organ of hope must have been very strongly developed in the head of the right hon. Baronet, if he thought for one single instant, that so long as the law remained unchanged, there would be any material improvement by common agreement amongst the landed proprietors. I will show the right hon. Baronet how little change for the better has been effected, from the time at which he then spoke until the present time; and, in fact, the whole course of proceeding with respect to game has been, one of deterioration rather than of improvement. I have already stated to the House the opinion expressed by Mr. Fox in 1797, and that expressed by the various reports of the Committees of both Houses of Parliament, up to 1828. I come now to the year 1831, when Lord Grey's Government legalised the sale of game, and made considerable changes in the game laws. When the Duke of Richmond was moving for the commitment of the new Game Bill in the House of Lords, he said— The system was also attended with this baneful consequence—it increased and heightened the feuds between the higher, the middle, and the lower classes. Would their Lordships believe, that in three years, from 1827 to 1830, 8,502 persons were convicted of offences against the game laws in England and Wales. Upon the 27th of February, 1845, Sir James Graham, speaking of the change made by Lord Grey's Government in 1831, said— I have not before me the returns of the number of crimes committed against the game laws at that period, as contrasted with other crimes; but I have a distinct recollection, that the attention of Lord Grey's Government was forced to this subject, on account of the great increase of crime under the unchanged law at that time apparent, and which circumstance now is attracting, in a painful degree, the attention of the country. Now what is the state of the case after seventeen years' experience of that improved game law of Lord Grey's Government? In 1844, I moved for a return of the committals under the game law in 1843, when it appeared that in that year, not less than 4,529 convictions had taken place, being an enormous increase upon the average which had so greatly astonished the Duke of Richmond in 1831. Since that time, a further return has been moved for, extending throughout the years 1844, 1845, and to the month of May, 1846, a period of twenty-eight months, during which time the total number of convictions in England and Wales for offences against the game laws amounted to 11,392, or not less than an average of 4,884 per annum, being an increase of 355 per annum over those of the year 1843, and nearly double the convictions which had so much astonished the Duke of Richmond in 1831. The number of gamekeepers upon whose bodies inquests have been held during the ten years which elapsed from 1833 to 1843, was 42. In 25 of these cases, verdicts of wilful murder were returned; but in the year 1844, the number was still greater than the average of those ten years, for in that year not less than seven inquests were held upon the bodies of gamekeepers, in three of which cases verdicts of wilful murder were returned, and in one case a verdict of manslaughter was recorded. Where is the improvement which the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth hoped would arise from the consideration given to the subject by the landed proprietors, and the game preservers? From the earliest period to which I have alluded, down to the present time, the condition of the country with regard to this question has been constantly growing worse and worse. I hold in my hand extracts from two country newspapers, which furnish us with a striking picture of what is going on in Leicestershire and Hertfordshire. In a recent number of the Leicestershire Chronicle, I find the following paragraph:— Since 1845, there has been a diminution in the committals to the county gaol, but no diminution in game offences. The cause of this is stated by the exemplary chaplain as follows:— Commitments under the game laws have alone exceeded those of the previous year. With respect to this class of offenders, it is obvious, that the malum in se being very generally questioned, a formidable barrier is thus presented to the influence of any reformatory system. In a recent number of the Herts County Press, a paper which is known to be generally devoted to the views of hon. Gentlemen opposite, I find the following article, which I have reason to believe was written by a clergyman in that county:— In the county prison are now—that is, at the Epiphany session—confined 106 prisoners: of these 47 are for poaching! Nearly half you see of those in the county gaol, more than half those in the liberty gaol—add these together, and we have 153 prisoners, of whom 69 were poachers. Think of this, gentlemen of Hertfordshire, when next you discuss the cause of demoralisation among us, or take in hand some remedy for the perils of the nation. Just one short of seventy are in your gaols for aggression on the sports of the higher classes. Dare you multiply this by 40, and find that 2,760 are in gaol in the whole of the English counties? or can you feel satisfied that our county should furnish an unhappy disproportion of such eases? I cannot pledge myself for the accuracy of an unit; but there is no intentional exaggeration, and the pro- portions can hardly be altered. I go at once to the preserver, and ask him to consider with himself, as a matter of conscience, how far he is morally justified in perpetuating and breeding this temptation?—whether, when we shall have added to the imprisonments all the fines, expenses, &c., which have been inflicted, his sport be not pursued at a sad cost to his poor neighbour; and whether an estrangement may not be growing up between the upper and lower classes on these grounds, which may remind us slightly of the state of things which preceded the French Revolution? I now come to a still more serious part of the question, as to offences against these laws; and I will give the House a sample of the cases which have occurred, or which have been referred to in the public papers, during the last two or three weeks. In the Times of the 11th of March, I find the following account of a poaching affray in Wiltshire:— Harris and Meadham, tried for cutting and wounding Grant, a keeper of the Marquess of Aylesbury. Three keepers heard shots on Bedwin Common; saw four men coming down Bath and London road; keepers were armed with swingels resembling a flail; keepers stood in the middle of the road, and King, one of them, said, 'Holloa, lads, what's up?' Fight began; tremendous fighting took place; 'the blood streamed down Grant's head, nearly blinding him.' The heads of the keepers dreadfully cut, and the worst consequences were apprehended for them. Thomas Meadham's arm was broken, and Maurice Meadham died from concussion of the brain the same day. The affair caused much pain to the Marquess, who sent messages every hour for intelligence as to the state of the deceased. Thomas Meadham was afterwards transported for seven years. This is a ease which may be taken from a great number of others; but here is another specimen:— Dec. 25. Christmas Day. Thomas and Wallace, poaching in a wood belonging to Mr. Beaumont, of By well, Northumberland; desperate fight with keepers; Thompson fired twice or thrice, once at a large dog with the keepers; Wallace wounded in the thigh; both taken; sent to Morpeth gaol, where Wallace died of lockjaw, on or about the 3rd January. Manslaughter. Fifteen years' transportation on Thompson. Keeper said in evidence, 'My dog is between a Newfoundland and a bloodhound; he is very large, but I do not know how savage he is. I keep the dog to go with me at night; he has been trained to scent a man; he can trace the footsteps by the scent, and take me to any part of the wood where anybody is.' I know not how landed proprietors living in a Christian country can reconcile it to themselves, not only to keep an armed police separate from that which is deemed sufficient for the preservation of public order, but that they should also maintain dogs, which, be they bloodhounds or mas- tiffs, are used for the purpose of scenting out and hunting down the men who transgress the laws which they have enacted, simply for the preservation of their sports. I now come to a case which recently occurred near Cardiff:— Three men, Davies, Hill, and Bryant, were charged at Cardiff with shooting David Davies, an assistant gamekeeper to W. W. Lewis, Esq. The gamekeepers were aroused by the continued discharge of firearms in the preserves. The keepers' dogs scented out the three prisoners, and another man not in custody. The keepers followed, demanding their names, telling them they did not want to have any quarrel with them; they refused to give their names; one of the keepers seized Bryant by the leg to prevent his getting over a fence; Bryant resisted; the keeper struck him on the arm with a stick till he dropped his gun; Davies shouldered his gun, and cried out, 'If you don't let the man go, I'll blow your brains out.' The three other keepers rushed forward and laid hold of it by the stock; the prisoner resisted, the gun went off, and the deceased received the contents in the groin; he staggered, fell down, and cried out, 'I am shot; I am a dead man.' He was carried to a cottage, covered with blood, but life was extinct. But it is not in the south or the west alone that these cases occur; a case recently occurred in the county of Lancaster; at Crosby Hall, in that county:— Four keepers and four poachers had a desperate fight for twenty minutes, the poachers getting the worst of it. During the struggle a gun was fired, but without any effect. The poachers used their gunstocks and bludgeons, and the keepers were armed with strong heavy cudgels. The wounded man, Tudor, who was lying on the ground in a state of insensibility, was then conveyed to the hall, as well as his companion Brown. Tudor had a severe wound on the head, which had been inflicted by one of the keepers' clubs, besides other injuries, and his recovery is considered very doubtful. Brown had several cuts and bruises, but not of a serious character. The next case is one which is taken from the Hants Independent of March 11th, in the present year, being only a few days hack. It is that of the murder of Charles Payne, assistant gamekeeper on the estate of Mr. A. R. Drummond, of Cadland Park, Hants. The watchers were only armed with sticks. The poachers had two guns, and they used the butt-ends of the guns to beat off the watchers. Deceased's skull was fractured by the butt-ends of the guns, and one gun went off by accident, and part of its contents lodged in the breast of Morris, but not to any serious extent. Payne survived but a short time. The coroner's jury returned a verdict of wilful murder against Morris as principal, and against Smith, Bracker, Cavell, and Knapp, as accessories. Morris, the principal in the affair, is the son of Stephen Morris, the head gamekeeper. Thus the father is chief gamekeeper, and the son is a poacher, and now charged with murder. [Sir G. GREY: But they were not convic- ted.] No; I am aware of that; they have not yet been tried; but the case is in no degree altered by that circumstance, nor, I trust, will it therefore be permitted to lose its just force with the House.

The next case I shall quote is one which occurred upon the preserves of a nobleman connected with the present Government; I allude to the Marquess of Normanby. It took place about the 1st of February:— Five keepers were watching in the Mulgrave Woods; heard firearms; keepers armed with sticks, the Marquess forbidding firearms. They met a gang of poachers, armed with guns; summoned them to surrender. One of the gang presented his gun and fired at a keeper named Brown, the contents lodging in his arm. A struggle followed; the keepers were beaten off, the poachers firing at them. The wounded man was carried to the nearest house. One of the gang was shot in the thigh by one of his comrades. He crawled away, concealing himself in a thicket, but was discovered. The wounded poacher died on the following Thursday. The next and the last case I shall allude to is one which, at the present moment, is exciting a very considerable amount of public attention. It is the case of two men named Thompson and Dowson, who are now lying in Durham gaol, under sentence of death, for the murder of a man named Shirley, the whipper-in of the Duke of Cleveland, at Raby Castle, but who, it appeared, upon the occasion of this affray, was acting as keeper. Shirley was shot in the arm, and died twelve days after the affray took place. I ask the House whether I am trespassing too much upon its attention, if I entreat you to consider, with the greatest attention, the propriety of abolishing a system which entails upon the country disorders like those which I have recounted. I can tell hon. Gentlemen that if they will not pay attention to this important question, and if they do not endeavour, to the best of their ability, to remedy these fearful evils, they will not be fulfilling their duty to their constituents, and will disappoint the just expectations of the people of this country. I will say nothing with regard to the case of these two men, so far as it is connected with the principle of capital punishments; the whole matter has been brought under the notice of the Home Secretary, and doubtless it has been a circumstance of the most anxious and painful solicitude to him; but I am prepared to maintain that upon all the principles laid down in the recent discussion on capital punishments, there must be a wide difference between a death which was caused by an affray of this nature, and one which is the result of cool, deliberate, and long-planned murder, such as those which have occasionally been brought before the notice of the public. I can tell the House, that the case of these two unfortunate men is at the present moment exercising the most injurious influence upon the minds of the population of the county of Durham. Every pitman in that county, if not himself a poacher, at least sympathises with poachers; and his feelings are strongly in favour of those who are convicted under the game laws; and yet I can assure the House that there is not a more deserving population in the kingdom than that which is to be found employed in the mines of that county. If it be true, as has been stated by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Ripon, that the lower orders have as strong a propensity for taking game as the higher, and that they have as great a natural love for sporting as the proprietors of land themselves, is it to be wondered at that, finding their fellow-labourers involved in these awful circumstances, they should feel the strongest sympathy for their fate? I will say nothing in the way of excuse for these men. I will not utter a word in palliation of their crime; but this I will say, that Parliament has a duty to perform, and that the Legislature of this country is hound, if possible, to prevent a recurrence of these melancholy catastrophes. Sir, I hope that I have been successful in convincing the House, that from the year 1796, up to the present hour, no change made in the game laws has in the slightest degree diminished the evil consequences which arise from their operation amongst our labouring population. An hon. Member opposite has brought in a Bill, founded upon one single passage which occurs in the report of the Committee of 1845 and 1846, the object of which Bill, as stated in the language commonly used to describe it, is, to make hares into rabbits—that is, to place hares with regard to the law in the same position as that which rabbits now occupy. It is, indeed, an extremely fanciful idea to suppose that any good can possibly arise from such an alteration of the law. If it be apprehended that the placing of hares in the same category with rabbits, will afford any remedy for such evils as those which I have described, the hon. Gentleman who introduced this measure must be the most sanguine individual who ever attempted anything in the way of legislation. Does the House forget that nearly all these frightful and bloody encounters have taken place, not with regard to hares or rabbits, but with regard to pheasants? Did not the evidence of Sir James Graham in 1828 clearly prove that poaching had increased since the introduction of pheasants into his neighbourhood? Does not the evidence of Sir William Rae prove the same fact with regard to Scotland? That distinguished individual was examined before the Lords' Committee in 1828, when he stated that "night poaching has increased materially since the introduction of pheasants into Scotland; I am not aware that it existed before that time." You may as reasonably fancy that the alteration in the game law, as proposed by the hon. Member for South Derbyshire, will have an effect upon certain evils which exist in America or India, as to suppose that it will afford a remedy for the crying evils of the present system in this country. The only possible effect of such a measure will be, that a certain number of persons, who are owners or occupiers of land, will be thereby relieved from a tax which they now pay, to the amount of 4l. per annum. Take the case of rabbits at present, and look to the petty sessions' trials; you will there find that the number of convictions under the game laws for poaching or pursuing rabbits, is probably equal to the number of convictions for taking or poaching any other kind of game: and you will there find that rabbits are, for the most part, as zealously and carefully preserved as any other species of game. Bring hares into the same category with rabbits, and offer that to the House and the country as a remedy for the evils to which I have called the attention of the House! I declare, Sir, there could not be a greater mockery of legislation, or one which would be more calculated to demonstrate to the country that this House is not disposed to remedy these evils, but that Parliament would rather allow them to continue than trench upon what are considered the "privileges" and the "sports" of the rich and powerful classes.

Now, what is it that stands in the way of the House adopting the measure which I propose? Who are the parties interested in the maintenance of the game laws; and what is the number of individuals for whose pleasure and enjoyment this system is kept up? In 1841 and 1842, the number of game certificates taken out was only 34,676, and the num- ber of certificates for gamekeepers amounted to 2,651. At this moment, out of the whole population, not more than 40,000 persons are in the habit of taking out game certificates; and it is probable that at least one-half, even of that number, do not partake of the exercise and pleasure of shooting for more than a very few days in the year; and yet it is for the sake of continuing to this handful of the population the preservation of this game, and the pleasure of this sporting, that the country is to be insulted and oppressed by the existence of these laws. Let the fact be remembered, that in order to find sport for 40,000 persons at the utmost, taking out game certificates annually, that not less than about 5,000 of their fellow-countrymen are every year subjected to fines and imprisonment for offences against the game laws.

The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer may perhaps object to the abolition of game certificates upon revenue considerations; for he received in the year 1847, 157,000l. as a tax upon these certificates and licenses. But seeing that the right hon. Gentleman has admitted his willingness to agree to the measure of the hon. Gentleman opposite, the Member for Derbyshire, I feel confident that he will not interpose any grounds of objection arising from the necessity of the revenue to the proposition which I am now about to submit to the House.

From the tone of hon. Gentlemen in speaking upon this subject, it would appear that they do not believe that much discontent exists in the country in connexion with the question of the game laws; but if general sympathy with the offenders who are convicted under these laws, is to be taken as any proof of discontent which exists with the laws themselves, then I say there is the best possible evidence that an universal dissatisfaction prevails with regard to the conduct of the House upon this question. It is a discontent which, Smouldering as it goes, in silence feeds; and it is just possible that an opportunity may some day arise, when this feeling will develop itself in a manner which every man, both within this House and out of it, would greatly deplore. I contend, then, that I have shown the House that all its past legislation upon this subject has failed, and that if you continue your old policy, and refuse to adopt a new and more whole- some one; if you refuse to return to a more natural and just principle of legislation, I would ask how and when are these evils to terminate?

The true principle, and the only true principle of legislation upon this question is, that while we give to every man protection for his property, we should, at the same time, give no special encouragement or sanction by law to the preservation of game. The preservation of game is unnatural in a densely peopled and cultivated country, and it is clearly incompatible with the best interests of the population of this kingdom at the present time. I am desirous of bringing the House back to the principle of the common law, which declares that whatever wild animals are upon the land shall be the property of the owner or occupier of that land; but recognises no special law for the purpose of sanctioning the accumulation and preservation of these wild animals.

I come now to the Bill which I propose to submit to the House. It is a measure which involves the repeal of every law which this House in past times has made, especially for the preservation of those animals which have been dignified by the appellation of "game." It is entitled "A Bill to repeal the Laws relating to Game;" and it consists chiefly of one clause, which is a repealing clause, and another short clause having reference to compensation for damages committed by game. The preamble states that "Whereas the preservation of game is injurious to agriculture and to the morals of the labouring classes, and whereas the laws now in force with reference to game are opposed to the public welfare; be it therefore enacted;" and the clause states, that after the passing of this Act the several Acts set forth in the schedule shall be repealed. The schedule sets forth the Acts referred to. It includes the 48th George III. cap. 55; 52nd George III. cap. 93; 9th George IV. cap. 69; 1st and; 2nd William IV. cap. 32; 3rd and 4th Victoria, cap. 17; 7th and 8th Victoria, cap. 29; and the following Scotch Acts; Act 1621, cap. 31; Act 1707, cap. 13; Act 13, George III. cap. 54; Act 2nd and 3rd William IV., cap. 68. So much for the principal clause. The second clause is one which I am not so anxious to press upon the attention of the House, but which I am, nevertheless, convinced is one which will be productive of no small benefit: it is a clause giving to the occupier of the land a right of action for damage on account of game kept and harboured on the adjoining land, and doing damage to the crops of the occupier of such land. This is a provision which was very much pressed upon the attention of the Committee by the hon. Member for Berkshire (Mr. Pusey) and other intelligent witnesses. There is one question upon which I know that I shall be met, and upon which I must ask the House to allow me to make one or two observations, and that is with respect to the law of trespass. In this Bill I have proposed to repeal the game laws; but I have not inserted any clause relating to trespass. My object in doing so was, because I felt that the more simple the Bill that I was about to introduce to the House the better; and because I was quite certain that if a new law of trespass were found to be necessary, and could be proved to be desirable, that the landed proprietors in this House could easily originate one, and, with their great influence in the House, they would have a certainty of success in carrying it through Parliament; and I, for one, admit that I should be willing to give it a very favourable consideration. But if it be thought desirable, and, if landed proprietors wish for a trespass law which shall be a new game law, then I should certainly resist the passing of such a measure; but I am anxious to give them all the just protection which this House can afford for their property, and to enable them to prevent any encroachments thereupon. I beg the House to observe, that in the proposition I now make to it, I have introduced nothing which interferes between landlord and tenant; I have proposed nothing which in any way interferes with the rights of property. In a recent discussion, I was charged with intending to do both these things; but there is not a Member of this House who would more strongly resist any aggression by law upon the just rights of any class of the community, whether it be the rich or the poor, than myself. But the present game law does interfere with the right of property. For example, it declares that the game which is upon the land shall belong to the owner of the land; but it prevents him from killing the game upon his own estate, except at certain times of the year; and does this for the express purpose of aiding in the accumulation of game. Now, I would have all those unjust restrictions abolished. I would allow the owner or occupier of an estate, to kill all the wild animals which live upon it, at such times and in such manner as he may think proper. In this respect, I should interfere less with the rights of property that they are now interfered with by the existing game laws. Before I conclude, there is one custom which exists in this country, connected with this question, to which I must advert in terms of the strongest reprobation; I allude to that monstrous system by which, instead of gentlemen contenting themselves with ordinary sporting, they seem to derive pleasure from merely slaughtering game in vast quantities in a short time. I have here a paragraph, which has been taken from a newspaper published in the county of Suffolk, the Bury Post, giving the result of five days' shooting at Buckenham Park, belonging, I believe, to a gentleman of the name of Baring. In these five days, not less than 3,780 head of game were killed, upwards of 2,500 of which were pheasants, the very creatures from the preservation of which have arisen so many of those frightful and bloody encounters to which I have already alluded.

For myself, I cannot imagine what pleasure can possibly be derived from wholesale slaughter of this description. I ask the House, whether there is anything in the cock-fighting, dog-fighting, bear-baiting, or bull-baiting, which some years ago formed the favourite amusements of the lowest classes of this country, but which now, even amongst them, are almost extinct—I say, I ask the House if there is anything in these brutal amusements more degrading, and more shocking, than such a system of slaughter as that which I have described? It makes me think that a remark made by Mr. Alison, the historian, must be true, where he says— There is often no material difference between the English young noble, and the Red Indian or the Arab: the treasures of science—the refinements of taste—the luxuries of wealth, are disregarded or forgotten, and the real excitation of life depends upon the destruction of wild animals, or the management of impetuous steeds. I have now stated the case which it was my wish to submit to the House. I believe it is impossible to dispute the facts I have detailed, or to overturn the arguments upon which this case is founded. I believe that nineteen-twentieths of the tenants of hon. Members of this House who are landed proprietors, would go with me entirely in the statements I have made, and in the proposition which I have now to submit to the House. I have a great number of letters from farmers, residing in all parts of the country, approving of the course I have taken in this matter, and expressing their anxious hope that this Bill may pass into a law. I know that I speak to a House where such a proposition as this is by no means palatable. I speak to the proprietors of land—to gentlemen who are fond of sporting—to those who preserve game—and to those who have not paid so much attention to the evils of the ssystem as I have paid. But however they may treat this proposition, let them not forget that there is a public sentiment in my favour, and against them, which will not remain quiescent. They may reject this Bill; but hereafter they will be compelled to propose such a measure, or one for the same object and in the same direction. I ask the House to have a due regard for that public sentiment—to respect the interests of the tenantry—to consider the prospects of agriculture—and to have some regard for the morals of the peasantry; and to reflect that the lives of gamekeepers and of poachers are worth a consideration on the part of this House. You build churches and endow schools; and you profess a sincere wish that the labouring population of this country should be elevated and civilised; and yet you maintain a system which, by the evidence of your own Committees, and by the testimony of all your courts of justice, has done more to demoralise the peasantry than any other thing which can, perhaps, be mentioned. It is on behalf of this public sentiment, and on behalf of all who suffer from the injuries inflicted by the game laws, that I now ask leave to bring in this Bill; and I beseech the House to make it one of the permanent and irrevocable, because one of the just statutes of this realm.


seconded the Motion, and in doing so, he wished to disclaim any unkindly feeling towards the owners of property. He had often experienced the kindness of many landlords in permitting him to sport over their properties. He must also express the satisfaction he felt that, at a time when convulsion pervaded Europe, this country possessed a body of gentlemen who, for patriotism and intelligence, and the many qualities that adorned the country gentleman, offered one of the greatest securities that could exist for the preservation of the country's peace and security in troubled times. He could say, however, with perfect sincerity, that it was on their account, as well as for other reasons, that he hoped the Motion new made would receive the sanction of the House. His hon. Friend had entered at such length into the subject that he would not detain the House with many observations. He thought his hon. Friend had abundantly proved the allegations made in many of the petitions which had been presented to the House, that there was a monstrous waste of human food caused by the game laws; that these laws were founded on injustice, and were a remnant of the feudal system—a system utterly unsuitable to the circumstances of the present age. He had presented many petitions on this subject himself; and, perhaps, he might be allowed to say, in reference to that part of the kingdom with which he was more immediately connected, that in the Lothians, Forfarshire, and adjacent counties, many of the largest and most intelligent farmers entered with much spirit, zeal, and determination into an association to induce the Legislature to put an end to the grievances which existed under the present laws. His hon. Friend had referred to several cases of damage which had arisen from game, and he would only adduce one more. He gave it on the authority of Mr. Stephenson, a distinguished agriculturist in East Lothian, and it showed the rapidity with which game was made to increase on some estates. On one farm, rented at l,000l. a year, the damage during throe years was found to be as follows:—The first year, 100l.; the second, 500l.; and the third, 830l. The opinion of two eminent counsel was taken as to the claim of the farmer to compensation; but the case was not tried at law, but referred to the landlord, who had not yet intimated his intentions. He did not approve of the clause which provided for compensation. He thought any such provision was calculated to produce heartburning and ill-feeling between landlord and tenant. The onus probandi necessarily devolved upon the complainant, and how could he prove by whose game it was that his corn was consumed? The injury was sustained for the most part at night, and the animals committing it could not be identified. He thought the matter would be infinitely simplified by giving the tenantry the right to destroy all descriptions of game. It surely was only fair that the persons who fed the animals should be allowed to protect themselves against the fruits of their labour being destroyed and eaten up. Reference had been made to the tenant being prohibited from keeping a dog or a cat, unless under certain conditions, one of them being that the dog should be kept chained. He thought this was a badge of slavery as objectionable as though the owner of the dog were obliged to wear a collar round his own neck. He felt curious to know what arguments could be adduced against the adoption of the very reasonable course proposed by his hon. Friend. He would entreat the favourable consideration of the House to the Motion now submitted. The agricultural tenantry—the parties more immediately concerned—were a body of men to whom the country at large lay under the deepest obligations. There were many hon. Members who had assumed to themselves the title of the friends of the British farmer, and an opportunity was now afforded to those gentlemen to prove the sincerity of their professions. Now, that protection had been removed against unrestricted competition with the foreign producer, it became doubly necessary that the British farmer should not he discouraged and impeded in his operations by the existence of laws which robbed him of his hard-earned gains. It had been proved by various histcrians—and especially by Mr. Alison—that the game laws of France had been one of the principal causes of the first French Revolution. The hon. Member concluded by quoting an extract from a letter which he had received from a gentleman who had the management of an estate in Scotland, which yielded between 30,000l. and 40,000l. a year, in which an earnest hope was expressed that some modification of the game laws would be adopted by the Legislature, because at present they were the source of much unkindly feeling between landlord and tenant which would not otherwise exist.


was aware it might seem uncourteous to prevent an hon. Member introducing a Bill into that House; but he felt so strong on this subject, that he must waive every such consideration, and must give his decided opposition even to the Motion for leave to bring in a Bill. If he had ever entertained any doubt whether he should object to this Bill or not, the conclusion of the hon. Member's speech would have satisfied him of the propriety of doing so; for the hon. Member had stated that he had not touched at all upon the law of trespass, and therefore he (Colonel Sibthorp) imagined that the hon. Member did not at all object to any inroad, molestation, or devastation of any kind upon the property, effected by poachers. The hon. Member (Mr. Bright) had been an Anti-Corn-Law League man; but that association having gone to slumber for a short time, he had become a member of another league equally contemptible. He (Colonel Sibthorp) founded his objections to the present Bill mainly upon the report of the Committee who had sat upon this subject in 1845–6. That Committee had sat from the 12th of February to the 20th of July, 1845, and again from the 22nd of February to the 6th of July, 1846, and had incurred an expense to the public of several thousand pounds; and what good had it done? After receiving a vast body of evidence—the greater part of which he maintained was diametrically opposed to the views of the hon. Member for Manchester—it had ended like the smoke of the smallest cigar. But even in the report of that Committee there was not a single clause which condemned the preservation of game. On the contrary, it was admitted that a modified right of property in game had always been recognised by the common law of the land, and that every fair and proper protection ought to be given to it. So that, after all the expense that had been incurred, the Committee had reported quite the contrary to what the hon. Member for Manchester had anticipated. He warned the House, therefore—having already incurred so much expense and trouble in the matter—to be cautious how they involved themselves in still further trouble and expense by sanctioning the introduction of a Bill which, he predicted, must like the Committee, end in mere smoke. He certainly was surprised that such a measure as this should be brought forward by the hon. Member for Manchester; for if he (Colonel Sibthorp) ever saw a man the least calculated for a sportsman—one whom he should think the least likely to ride a steeple-chase, or to be found catching fish, with a worm at one end and—he would not say what at the other; if ever he saw a man whom there was so little chance of detecting in the pursuit of any game or of fish, except in a punt under Westminster-bridge, it was the hon. Gentleman the Member for Manchester. He had gone through the whole mass of evidence adduced before that hon. Member's Committee, and he would distinctly assert that none of it justified the conclusion at which the hon. Member had arrived. It was neither more nor less than a libel on the landed proprietors of the country to bring in such a measure as this. It was the unanimous opinion of the tenant-farmers that the game preserves were the main cause that induced gentlemen to reside on their estates, and fulfil those duties which their wealth and station in society called upon them to discharge. But even in a financial point of view this Bill was objectionable. No less a sum than 223,140l. 11s. 8d. was received as duty on game certificates, taxes for hounds, harriers, and so forth. He should not suppose the Chancellor of the Exchequer could well afford to spare so large an item in his receipts. For these reasons he felt it his duty to give his most strenuous opposition even to the introduction of the Bill.


said, that, notwithstanding all that had been done of late years to improve the game laws, a strong feeling yet existed in the country that they were oppressive and unjust. He had listened to the speech of the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Bright), and it must be confessed that it was a very powerful one, as far as related to its decription of the evils of the game laws; but when he came to his proposed remedies, then the hon. Member broke down. If the hon. Member's measure were carried, it would introduce in six months anarchy and confusion into the whole state of the relations between landlord and tenant. The tenant who suffered from game was, if he understood the hon. Member aright, to have a remedy against his neighbour who preserved by an action at law; but how was he to mark the pheasants, hares, and rabbits by whom he was injured, or tell from whose lands they came? All the remedies proposed were of a similar nature; and he could not but believe that the hon. Member was somewhat ignorant upon the subject he had taken up, as he had described hares and rabbits as similar animals, as far as injury to the farmer was concerned. The hon. Member said that twelve rabbits devoured as much as two sheep, but had not recollected at the same time that the rabbit, as well as the sheep, were human food. If the hon. Member would take a walk along the streets, he would see that the Cockneys were far from being averse to that kind of food, and were quite willing to give a high price for them. The hon. Member's new regulations were proposed to be equally stringent against rabbits as against hares; but in his (Sir G. Strickland's) neighbourhood the farmers found that rabbits were more profitable than sheep, and transformed large portions of their farms into warrens, and cultivated food for them. Would the hon. Member then prevent farmers from devoting their skill and energy to a pursuit which they found profitable? He mentioned these facts to point out the difficulties involved in the subject—difficulties which he did not think the hon. Member had at all removed.


agreed that the House was indebted to the hon. Member for Manchester for calling their attention to the subject by this proposition. The discussion was one which the House ought to entertain, inasmuch as it might be productive of considerable benefit. The hon. Gentleman had forcibly pointed out the evils arising, not so much from the present game laws, as from the great accumulation of game, and its strict preservation practised in some parts of the country; still the remedy now proposed, he believed, would not remove the evils alluded to, whilst it would introduce others in addition. The hon. Gentleman overlooked the real cause of these evils, which was, as he had said, the accumulation of game. On one point he entirely agreed with the hon. Gentleman's remarks, and he thought the majority of the House would join with him in condemning the modern system of battues. That any country gentlemen should be induced to pursue this system for the mere purpose of inserting in a newspaper a statement of the enormous quantity of game killed at a particular spot in a particular time, was utterly unworthy of them; and it was this custom, he believed, which led to the great majority of the offences committed under the game laws. He rejoiced that this subject had found favour with the House; and was so far indebted to the hon. Gentleman for proposing this Bill, as it might lead to a discontinuance of the system, which was fraught with the greatest evils. The hon. Gentleman had spoken of the game laws as injurious to crops, to tenants, and to the general morals of the country. With respect to the injury to crops, he believed that great injury was done by game, especially by hares, whilst pheasants were very destructive to the crops adjoining the coverts. But when the hon. Member spoke of the great loss of food thus occasioned to the country generally, he forgot that the game was food; and the real evil was that this game, used as food by one man, was maintained out of the property of another. Was that the consequence of the law or of an agreement between landlord and tenant? It was well known the amount of game on an estate was generally an element in the conditions of such agreements. The Act 1 & 2 Will. IV., c. 32, gave the occupier of land, when possessed of a game certificate, the right of killing game on his own land. But the system of preserving game was a grievance which Parliament had never yet touched, and any attempt to touch it would be absolutely futile. There was no law at present in force which prevented any tenant, more than a landlord, from keeping as many dogs as he pleased, provided he paid the tax upon them; but this was one of the matters which entered into the agreement between landlord and tenant. The hon. Gentleman thought the Bill introduced by the hon. Member for Derbyshire (Mr. Colvile) would do nothing to mitigate the evils at present existing; but he differed from the hon. Member. He admitted that considerable destruction might be occasioned by pheasants as well as hares; and whether the Bill should be so extended as to embrace both descriptions of game, would be a question for the Committee. But the House was indebted to the hon. Member for Derbyshire for having introduced that Bill, which he hoped would receive its sanction. The most important branch of this question was its moral bearing; and here he must say, he thought the hon. Member was mistaken in supposing that no improvement had taken place. The hon. Member said that the number of convictions under the game laws was yearly increasing, and also the demoralisation consequent upon them; but his information did not lead him to the same conclusion. Though offences under the game laws were unhappily frequent, there was a diminution of them as compared to former times, arising partly from the attention directed to the subject by repeated discussions, and from the measures taken to prevent those offences. Under the Act of William IV., relating to offences committed during the day, no transportation had taken place. The Act under which the most serious offences and convictions occurred was the Act of George IV., c. 69, called the Night Poaching Act. He believed that from the date of the report of 1846 not a single person had been sentenced to transportation under the first section of that Act. Another section related to persons committing acts of violence; and under this three persons only had been sentenced to transportation in the year 1847. He found that the number of persons summarily convicted for offences under the game laws in the year 1845 was 2,796—which was considerably less than the number given in any previous return. [Mr. BRIGHT: That was only the number imprisoned; the number, including persons sentenced to fines and imprisonments, was 4,800.] Still if the return were compared with those of former years, it showed a considerable reduction. He should thankfully give his assistance to any attempt to diminish the evils of the present system, and remove the temptations to crime that abounded; but he must say he thought the proposition of the hon. Gentleman would utterly fail in attaining that object. The hon. Gentleman proposed to alter the Act of 9 George IV., whilst that of William IV. he would repeal altogether; but he ventured to say that if these steps were adopted, the result would be that the soil of England would be overrun by persons engaged in the capture or destruction of game. The only remedy which the hon. Gentleman would allow as a protection to property was the right of bringing an action at law against the thousands of individuals who would be thus overrunning the country. This would be to hold out a premium to crime. If the hon. Member meant to introduce an alteration of the Trespass Act, so as to adapt it to altered circumstances, they ought to know what that alteration was; but he apprehended there would be great difficulties in the way. If the law were to be made much more strict than at present, and persons were to be taken up and subjected to severe penalties, the effect would be to make the law of trespass intolerably stringent and severe as relating to ordinary cases. He wished the hon. Gentleman had been satisfied with a much more moderate proposal, though he was prepared to give it his best attention, admitting that it was time a Bill, founded on the recommendations of the Committee, should be passed. He thought that it would be extremely injudicious to get rid of the game laws altogether in the way proposed, for the trespass law, applied as proposed, would become an intolerable nuisance. With respect to the loss of life to which the hon. Gentleman referred as having arisen from poaching, he knew there was a deep feeling in a large portion of the population on the subject, for they looked upon poaching as no crime, and regarded murders committed by men engaged in poaching in a different light from murder committed under different circumstances. He was sure the hon. Member was the last man to sanction such a palliation of crime, or to consider those persons who while engaged in the unlawful pursuit of game, killed those who endeavoured to arrest them, as not being guilty of murder. The hon. Member had alluded to a case which had recently occurred in Hampshire, with the details of which, however, he was not particularly acquainted; but that case would be carefully sifted before the Judge and jury. It did not always follow that when death occurred in affrays between poachers and gamekeepers, while the parties were in hot blood, they were treated and punished as murderers. He would not refer to the case which had occurred in Hampshire; but with respect to all the other cases of trials for murder in connexion with the unlawful pursuit of game, with the exception of the unfortunate affair on the Duke of Cleveland's estate in Durham, the verdicts were manslaughter. He was unwilling to allude to other cases where people were under sentence of death; but he cautioned the House against believing that persons suffered the punishment of death without qualification, in cases of murder arising out of infractions of the game laws. In some cases, however, where murder was committed without the slightest provocation, and where shots had been fired in ambuscade, and death had ensued, in the endeavour to prevent detection, and where men met for those unlawful purposes, and would take away human life rather than be interrupted in their illegal acts, then the case became of the most grave and serious nature, and must be dealt with accordingly. The questions arising out of cases of this kind were the most painful which persons in the situation which he had the honour to hold had to deal with. Before any final decision was come to in these cases, the Judge had to be consulted, and the whole circumstances of the case were carefully investigated, and his most anxious care was that a calm and just decision should be arrived at. He begged the House to remember what the law was, and not allow it to be proclaimed to the world that a man, while engaged in an unlawful pursuit, and who killed another, was not guilty of murder. In opposing the introduction of the Bill, it was not from any want of respect to the motives which had actuated the hon. Member in bringing the subject forward; on the contrary, he thought the House was much obliged to the hon. Gentleman for the care he had devoted to the subject. But he felt that the adoption of this Bill would introduce evils of greater magnitude than those now existing, and wishing, as he did, to see some amendment in the existing law which would have practical effects which would not be attained by the proposed measure of the hon. Gentleman, he hoped that it would not receive the sanction of the Legislature, as it Would not accomplish the objects the hon. Gentleman himself had in view.


was anxious to make one remark as to a relative of his own. He must say that the hon. Gentleman had been guilty of a great and gross impropriety in alluding to a case—which he regretted was also referred to by the right hon. Gentleman—which had recently occurred in Hampshire. That case had given the greatest pain to the gentleman with whom he was so nearly connected. He complained, above all, of the impropriety of manner in which that case had been alluded to, as it had not been tried. He thought that the right hon. Baronet would have taken a more judicious part in not having alluded to it. He would appeal to many hon. Members in that House who were acquainted with his relative, as to the high character that gentleman bore; and he believed it would be universally admitted that no one could behave more kindly to the tenants as well as the peasants on his estate, than that gentleman. He regretted that the hon. Member, as well as others from the manufacturing districts, still persisted in making general and sweeping accusations and charges against particular classes.


denied that the supporters of measures of this kind wished to deprive any class of public estimation or esteem; but they were desirous to do that which would do more to raise that class in the estimation of the country than any other act they could perform in the course of the Session. He did not believe that the great grievance, arising from the game laws, could be relieved by any palliatives; therefore they must be altogether got rid of. He had hoped that the right hon. Gentleman had some remedy, for he intimated that some measure might be adopted, founded on the resolutions of the Commit- tee of 1846, but he concluded his speech without suggesting any thing of the kind. He did not believe that any measure which was intended to carry the resolutions of the Committee into effect, would be of the slightest avail in checking the evil. It was vain to expect that country gentlemen could induce any class of the community in this country to believe that the infraction of the game laws was a malum in se, although they had made it a malum prohibitum. The whole evidence before the Committee showed that this feeling generally prevailed from the highest to the lowest classes. A man of the name of Cohen, to whom allusion had been made, stated that he had been in the habit of supplying the nobility, gentry, and the clergy, with poached pheasants' eggs—that was, with the eggs of pheasants obtained in an illegal manner. It was clear that these persons thought it to be no crime to receive goods obtained by poaching; but they would scout the notion of receiving any other description of stolen property. Would any of them receive, for instance, stolen silk, or other rich articles? This feeling arose from the circumstance that you could not make animals wild by nature be regarded as property. On this subject he could not help alluding to an observation of the first living poet of the age, as relevant to the subject. He hoped that there were many in that House who agreed in the expression:— …. "Mingle not your joy With sorrow of the lowest thing that breathes. But he was aware that a very large portion of mankind entertained a very different feeling. On the subject of the game laws, he would refer to the opinion of an eminent legal authority as to their character; and he begged the House to recollect that non meus hic sermo, for he should not have liked to use such strong language:— Lastly, there is another offence, constituted by a variety of Acts of Parliament, which are so numerous and so confused, and the crime itself of so questionable a nature, that I shall not detain the reader with many observations thereupon. And yet it is an offence which the sportsmen of England seem to think of the very highest importance; and a matter, perhaps the only one, of general and national concern, associations having been formed all over the kingdom to prevent its destructive progress. I mean the offence of destroying such beasts and fowls as are ranked under the denomination of game, which, we may remember, was formerly observed (upon the old principles of the forest law) to be a trespass and offence in all persons alike, who have not authority from the Crown to kill game (which is royal property) by the grant of either a free warren, or at least a manor of their own. But the laws called the game laws have also inflicted additional punishments (chiefly pecuniary) on persons guilty of this general offence, unless they be people of such rank or fortune as are therein particularly specified. All persons, therefore, of what property or distinction soever, that kill game out of their own territories, or even upon their own estates, without the King's license expressed by the grant of a franchise, are guilty of the first original offence, of encroaching on the royal prerogative. And those indigent persons who do so, without having such rank or fortune as is generally called a qualification, are guilty not only of the original offence, but of the aggravations also, created by the statutes for preserving the game, which aggravations are so severely punished, and those punishments so implacably inflicted, that the offence against the King is seldom thought of, provided the miserable delinquent can make his peace with the lord of the manor. This offence, thus aggravated, I have ranked under the present head, because the only rational footing upon which we can consider it as crime, is, that in low and indigent persons it promotes idleness, and takes them away from their proper employments and callings; which is an offence against the public police and economy of the commonwealth. In another place he says— The statutes for preserving the game are many and various, and not a little obscure and intricate, it being remarked that in one statute only there is false grammar in not less than six places, besides other mistakes, the occasion of which, or what denomination of persons were probably the framers of the statutes, I shall not at present inquire. Again, with respect to their introduction, he says— Another violent alteration of the English constitution consisted in the depopulation of whole counties, for the purposes of the King's royal diversion; and subjecting both them, and all the ancient forests of the kingdom, to the unreasonable severities of forest laws imported from the Continent, whereby the slaughter of a beast was made almost as penal as the death of a man. From a similar principle to which, though the forest laws are now mitigated, and by degrees grown entirely obsolete, yet from this root has sprung a bastard slip, known by the name of the game law, now arrived to and wantoning in its highest vigour; both founded upon the same unreasonable notions of permanent property in wild creatures; and both productive of the same tyranny to the commons; but with this difference, that the forest laws established only one mighty hunter throughout the land, while the game laws have raised a little Nimrod in every manor. That was the language of Sir Wm. Blackstone. It was the unfounded notion that property would be created in wild animals that had puzzled the Legislature so much on this subject. It was notorious, before the Act was passed allowing the sale of game, that it could be almost openly purchased; and even now, when the law stated that pheasants should not be killed before the 1st of October, they were to be seen on the table of any feast in the city of London on the 29th of September. So much for the respect shown to the law! No one could doubt what had been stated by the hon. Member for Manchester, as to the want of confidence which existed in the administration of those laws by the magistrates. ["Oh, oh!"] He had been told so himself by an eminent magistrate. ["Name!"] He had no objection to do so. He alluded to the late Mr. Canning, of Gloucestershire, who told him that he never sat on a game case, for he felt that he never could do justice in such a case. Far be it from him to charge the magistrates of England with corruption; but it was a matter of the greatest consequence that the magistrates should be placed in a position above suspicion, and that they should not have the administration of a law in which they were likely to feel so deeply interested. Those laws also seriously interfered with the comforts of the working classes; for footpaths were constantly being closed up, because it was supposed that the persons using them might interfere with the game. It was notorious also that a man or boy who had committed any offence against the game laws, became a marked character. He knew cases of boys, who had committed some poaching offences, who never afterwards could get employment, and were then obliged to turn poachers or steal. One case occurred at Woodbridge, in Suffolk, where a boy was charged in court with stealing, and on being acquitted, attempts were made to get him employment; but the farmers said that they would not employ him, for they had been cautioned not to do so, as he had been guilty of destroying pheasants' eggs. He was sorry country gentlemen had not higher pursuits than shooting game; but instead of improving the agriculture of the country, they were occupied in the preservation of game. Instead of gentlemen keeping gamekeepers, he should like to see them keeping schoolmasters. He had been told that the adoption of this measure would lead to increasing the severity of the law of trespass; he denied that this would be the case, for all difficulties might be easily obviated. But this was nothing to the hon. Member for Manchester, whose object was to get rid of the game laws. There was one mode they might adopt regarding trespassers. Say that a trespasser were warned off the ground, and that he refused to go—that might be considered a fair case for the infliction of a summary conviction and punishment. And if a trespasser carried a gun, and refused to go off after being warned, and resisted the attempt to put him off, it might be fairly treated as a case of aggravated assault. But, in fact, the inducements to trespass would be greatly lessened by the passing of the Bill which the hon. Member for Manchester proposed to introduce, for its tendency would be to lessen the quantity of game in the country, which was the great inducement to those trespassers.


opposed the introduction of the Bill. He thought the country had little cause to thank the hon. Member for Manchester for his speech; for he had described the country as a complete Aceldama, and the people as a set of Ghouls.


thought that the only real benefit that the House could confer upon the agriculturists would be the doing away with the game laws; for they incited the people to more crime than anything else in the country. The game laws filled the gaols, and poaching was the first thing that made the farming assistant a criminal. No measure could be of greater importance than their repeal; and he should support the Bill of the hon. Member for Manchester for that purpose.


moved the adjournment of the debate.

The House divided:—Ayes 82; Noes 87: Majority 5.

List of the NOES.
Adair, H. E. Fordyee, A. D.
Alcock, T. Fox, W. J.
Armstrong, Sir A. Gardner, R.
Bellew, R. M. Greene, J.
Bowring, Dr. Grenfell, C. P.
Boyle, hon. Col. Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.
Bright, T. Hall, Sir B.
Broadley, H. Hayter, W. G.
Brockman, E. D. Henry A.
Bunbury, E. H. Heywood, J.
Cayley, E. S. Hume, J.
Clay, J. Hutt, W.
Cobden, R. Keppel, hon. G. T.
Cowan, C. Kershaw, J.
Crawford, W. S. King, hon. P. J. L.
Davies, D. A. S. Littleton, hon. E. R.
Devereux, J. T. Mitchell, T. A.
Duncan, G. Molesworth, Sir W.
Duncuft, J. Morris, D.
Dundas, Adm. Mowatt, F.
Ebrington, Visct. Osborne, R.
Evans, Sir De L. Palmerston, Visct.
Ewart, W. Parker, J.
Fagan, W. Pearson, C.
Fergus, J. Pechell, Capt.
Ferguson, Sir R. A. Perfect, R.
Pilkington, J. Strickland, Sir G.
Pinney, W. Stuart, Lord D.
Power, N. Thicknesse, R. A.
Pusey, P. Thompson, Col.
Raphael, A. Thornely, T.
Ricardo, O. Tufnell, H.
Robartes, T. J. A. Verney, Sir H.
Roche, E. B. Villiers, hon. C.
Rutherfurd, A. Walmsley, Sir J.
Salwey, Col. Williams, J.
Scholefield, W. Wood, rt. hon. Sir C.
Seymour, Sir H. Wood, W. P.
Seymour, Lord Wyld, J.
Shelburne, Earl of
Somerville, rt. hon. Sir W. TELLERS.
Stanley, hon. E. J. Wakley, T.
Stanton, W. H. Thompson, G.
List of the AYES.
Acland, Sir T. D. Hotham, Lord
Alexander, N. Hudson, G.
Archdall, Capt. M. Jones, Sir W.
Bagge, W. Lascelles, hon. E.
Baring, H. B. Lindsay, hon. Col.
Bennet, P. Macnamara, Major
Bentinck, Lord G. M'Naughten, Sir E.
Bowles, Adm. Maitland, T.
Bramston, T. W. Masterman, J.
Bruce, C. L. C. Meux, Sir H.
Buck, L. W. Mulgrave, Earl of
Burghley, Lord Napier, J.
Burroughes, H. N. Neeld, J.
Campbell, hon. W. F. Newdegate, C. N.
Cavendish, hon. G. H. Nugent, Sir P.
Chaplin, W. J. Ossulston, Lord
Chichester, Lord J. L. Packe, C. W.
Christy, S. Paget, Lord A.
Clerk, rt. hon. Sir G. Paget, Lord G.
Cochrane, A. D. R. W. Pigott, F.
Coles, H. B. Plowden, W. H. C.
Compton, H. C. Powell, Col.
Curteis, H. M. Pugh, D.
Dod, J. W. Rendlesham, Lord
Dundas, G. Sandars, G.
Dunne, F. P. Seymer, H. K.
Edwards, H. Sibthorp, Col.
Elliot, hon. J. E. Smith, M. T.
Farrer, J. Smyth, J. G.
Fellowes, E. Spooner, R.
Floyer, J. Stafford, A.
Fortescue, hon. J. W. Sturt, H. G.
Fuller, A. E. Taylor, T. E.
Grace, O. D. J. Tenison, E. K.
Grey, R. W. Thompson, Ald.
Grogan, E. Tollemache, J.
Gwyn, H. Townshend, Capt.
Hale, R. B. Walter, J.
Halford, Sir H. Watkins, Col. L.
Hallyburton, Lord J. F. Wawn, J. T.
Harris, hon. Capt. West, F. R.
Henley, J. W. Wyvill, M.
Hildyard, T. B. T. TELLERS.
Hood, Sir A. Mackenzie, W. F.
Hope, Sir J. Palmer, R.

On the question being again put,


called attention to the result of the division, and remarked, that when so many hon. Gentlemen were desirous for an adjournment of the debate, he thought it would be a very unusual thing-to decline to accede to their wishes. He, therefore, begged to move that the House do adjourn.

Motion carried.

House adjourned at half-past Twelve o'clock.