HC Deb 13 April 1853 vol 125 cc1080-97

Order for Second Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."


said, he wished shortly to state to the House the reasons why it appeared to him that there were good and valid objections to this Bill. However excellent might seem, in the abstract, the grounds on which the measure was recommended to the House, he thought that, on general principles, and in accordance with the liberal spirit of the constitution, they ought to throw the doors of that House as widely open as possible to all those who might be useful in assisting the House in its labours. The principle on which Parliament had acted for a great length of time was that of permitting the entrance into that House of persons belonging to different religious sects and professions, and of all persons competent to give the House information, and fitted to represent particular interests affected by the laws passed by the Legislature. There were undoubtedly grounds upon which the general principle should be departed from, and upon which persons should be disqualified from sitting in the House of Commons. There might be, for instance, per- sons holding official situations, the duties of which prevented them from attending the House, because they could not be in two places at the same time, and must, therefore, either neglect their duty in Parliament, or abstain from performing their duties elsewhere. Whenever that could be shown to apply, it was, no doubt, a sufficient ground of exclusion. There were persons also excluded who were supposed to be so much under the influence of the Crown, that, their presence not being necessary for the transaction of business, they might be looked upon as not being independent and self-willed Members in their discussions. It was, however, objectionable to extend the range of exclusion beyond what could be justified either by strong necessity or by any apparent advantage. A great number of persons holding judicial offices were certainly very properly disqualified, as their duties would be incompatible with attendance at that House; and it was clear that if there were any number of Members of such a description, they would not tend to increase the independent character of the House of Commons. But in regard to those particular offices there was only one which by this Bill was practically intended to be excluded; for though there were other offices named in the schedule, yet it was obvious that the persons holding them would have but little chance of being able to attend the House. The object of the Bill was, in point of fact, specially to exclude the Master of the Rolls. They had had a Master of the Rolls as a Member of the House of Commons for a great length of time. Many very eminent men filling that office had been, not only an ornament to the House, but had greatly assisted their debates. He was old enough to remember Sir William Grant, and others who had succeeded him, who, acting with dignity and independence, had brought to the discussions in that House all the aids of deep learning and of extensive information upon matters of high importance; with respect to which the generality of Members had not by their previous studies acquired that particular information which had been found of material use in the decision of many questions brought under their notice. He did not think that it had ever been imputed to persons holding the high office of Master of the Rolls that they had been swayed by improper political motives. They had always, so far as his knowledge and recollection went, preserved a perfect independence of character, and had only taken part in the debates of the House when by so doing they clearly thought that they were contributing to the purpose for which such debates were commenced. The House ought, therefore, to understand clearly whether it would be serving its own interest and that of the country by excluding from the House persons who might, from time to time, hold the office of Master of the Rolls. But if they took the broad principle that no person holding a judicial appointment should be allowed to sit in that House, then they must proceed further than was contemplated by this Bill. As far as he remembered, the strongest point urged by the noble Lord opposite (Lord Hotham), when he moved for the introduction of the Bill—and certainly the point upon which he placed most reliance—was, that persons holding judicial offices were liable, if they had seats in that House, to be placed in a situation of being called upon to determine cases and questions involving the interests of their constituents. Then, if this were the ground of the pleasure, surely the House ought not to stop at the schedule which it contained. He (Viscount Palmerston) did not know, for instance, why the Cursitor Baron of the Exchequer should be allowed to retain a seat, nor why the Recorders of different boroughs should retain theirs, nor why Chairmen of Quarter Sessions should be allowed to sit in the House of Commons; because, more or less, the same principle which applied to the Master of the Rolls applied in certain cases to all these officers. For these reasons he begged the House to consider well the grounds upon which they were called to take the step proposed by this Bill. He asked them to consider whether they would not thereby be establishing a principle, the proper working out of which would carry them much further than, as he apprehended, any Gentleman was yet prepared to go; whether, under the hope or expectation of contributing to the independence of the House, and to its general utility, they would not rather be detracting from the dignity and character of Parliament, as derived from the weight of the persons sitting in it; and whether they would not, really, be going to a degree that would be manifestly absurd, by shutting men out of Parliament who were best qualified to engage in its debates. On these general grounds it appeared to him that the Bill was one which it was not desirable to pass; and having these convictions, he should, if a division were pressed, vote against the second reading.


said, he should support the second reading of the Bill. He concurred in all that had been said by the noble Lord the Home Secretary as to the eminence of the distinguished lawyers who had sat in Parliament, such as Sir William Grant and others; but he contended that that House was bound to carry out its own principles. It had been his lot to be among the first to find fault with the system of some of the judicial officers in Ireland being enabled to sit in the House of Commons, for this plain reason—that during their absence in London the arrears of business in their respective courts accumulated so greatly as to give rise to much dissatisfaction. But a change was made; and he had the satisfaction of knowing that it had proved highly beneficial. The Judge of the Court of Admiralty had, upon the same principle, been prohibited from holding a seat in that House. Not long ago there were such arrears in the Court of Chancery that it was found necessary to appoint additional Judges in order to reduce them; and those additional Judges could not sit in the House of Commons. It was a Parliamentary principle that the House should be always full, and that Members should devote the whole of their time to the interests of their constituents. But how could the House be full, and how could Members so devote their time, if, during a great part of the day, they had high judicial duties to discharge? This was exactly the case with the Master of the Rolls. His judicial duties were totally incompatible with his Parliamentary duties. If he properly discharged his Parliamentary duties, he would have to be in the House, or upstairs on an election, or some other Committee, early and late; but he could not give such an attendance without neglecting the important functions which required his presence in the Court over which he presided. He must neglect either one duty or the other, for no man could be in two places at the same time. Still he greatly regretted that the present Master of the Rolls was not a Member of the House, for he bore a name which the House must remember with gratitude, because there might be expected from the son a continuation of those reforms in the law which the father had so earnestly laboured for in other times. But the House was bound to abide by its own principles; and if they had excluded the Judge of the Admiralty Court (Dr. Lushington), who was a most distinguished ornament to the House, because his judicial functions were incompatible with his Parliamentary duties, he could not see why the Master of the Rolls ought to be excepted. Not one of the judicial officers mentioned in the schedule to the Bill ought to have a seat in that House; and, indeed, he would go further, and contend that many others who exercised judicial functions in cities and in boroughs, if those functions required much of their time, ought to be equally excluded. But he found that many hon. and learned Gentlemen who held the office of Recorder had taken their regular turns of duty upstairs; consequently, in their case, the objection did not apply. In conclusion, he put it to the Government to say whether the principle upon which the House usually acted in such cases, ought not to be recognised in relation to the Master of the Rolls? The duties of that Judge were inconsistent with the perfect fulfilment of Parliamentary functions; for he was not like the Attorney General or the Solicitor General, who were officers of the Government, but an independent Judge. For these reasons he should support the second reading of the Bill.


said, the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume) had made some very admirable and sensible observations; but he could not but express his regret that so distinguished a member of Her Majesty's Government as the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston) should have opposed the second reading of the Bill. There was something in the high and dignified position of the first of the Judges whose office was mentioned in the schedule (the Master of the Rolls in England) which made it altogether inconsistent that he should have to go through the scenes which it was occasionally the fortune of every one who aspired to a seat in the House of Commons to encounter at a contested election. It must be remembered that, with two exceptions only, the Master of the Rolls was the highest judicial officer in the Kingdom. Only the Lord High Chancellor of England and the Lord Chief Justice of England were superior to him in rank. It could not, therefore, but be felt that everything which fell from one so high and eminent in station ought to carry with it the weight of his commanding ju- dicial authority. He would put a case. Last night there was a question before the House on which most of the eminent lawyers who spoke, were clearly of opinion that a particular construction ought to be put upon a particular Act of Parliament. The House, however, in utter disregard of those opinions, voted, and voted too by a large majority, in favour of a different construction. Now, if the Master of the Rolls had had a seat in that House, and had been called upon to express an opinion on the question, and his opinion had been, as he (Sir F. Kelly) believed it would have been, in entire concurrence with that of the Attorney General, would it have been seemly that the opinion of the third judicial officer of the realm, clearly expressed in the House on a particular question, and which if given from the Bench would have been conclusive as to the civil rights of any individual, should be passed over and disregarded? But, were there no other arguments in favour of the exclusion of this high judicial officer, he should support it by reason of the scenes which too commonly occurred at contested elections. Dr. Lushington, to whom reference had been already made, sat for one of the most populous constituencies in the Kingdom—the Tower Hamlets; and the present Master of the Rolls had sat for Plymouth. Both of these Judges, he believed, had had to go from door to door, and from the highest to the lowest, asking for votes, just the same as any other Member who sought to be elected by any constituency in the Kingdom. They had had to meet answers, not the most courteous, civil, or just, from individuals to whose support they appealed; they had had to appear upon the hustings not only before those who might be described as "an enlightened constituency," but before some of the worst and most unscrupulous rabble that could be assembled in the Kingdom; they had been obliged to appear before such an auditory, to answer any questions and interrogatories that might there be put to them; and in fact they had had to go through the ordeal, with which most hon. Members were familiar, of a severely contested election. The Lord High Chancellor, the Lord Chief Justice, the superior Judges in the Courts of Westminster Hall, the Vice-Chancellors—those who had been lately created by Act of Parliament—were all excluded from seats in the House of Commons. All these high judicial officers, looking at the dignity with which they were invested, and to the high respect with which they were universally treated by all classes of the people, certainly ought not to be exposed to the scenes he had attempted to describe. Why, then, should the Master of the Rolls—the third judicial officer in the realm? The noble Lord opposite (Viscount Palmerston) had alluded to the case of the Recorder of London, and to other cases of Recorders of different boroughs sitting in the House of Commons. Those who desired that the Recorder of the City of London should continue to have a seat in the House of Commons, had perhaps better forbear from raising this objection. If that question ever arose, they might probably find some very strong and conclusive reasons urged for excluding that high officer. In one respect, no person would regret the absence of his right hon. and learned Friend the present Recorder of London (Mr. S. Wortley) from the House more than himself; but if it were possible to extend the principle of the Bill to those judicial officers, he should be inclined to do so in respect to every judicial officer who presided in any of the highest Courts in the Kingdom. But there were limits to the application of every principle, however just; and when he remembered that it was the practice of the Government to confer these offices upon some of the most distinguished men at the Bar—that it was important such appointments should be held by able and learned men—and that eminent members of the Bar who were candidates for higher offices and greater advancement must seek that promotion through a seat in Parliament, it would perhaps be affecting the interests of the whole Bar of England if they were too nicely, or too extensively, to require the application of the principle of exclusion. The House, however, was now considering, not the question of Recorders, or of the holders of inferior judicial offices, but the case of very nearly the highest and greatest Judge in the land; and he submitted that it was quite impossible to secure for that high judicial officer either the dignity which belonged to his situation, or the respect which ought to follow his office, and which he believed was now felt by all classes of the people, unless he was secured against being involved in the scenes he had described. On these grounds, he hoped the House would assent to the second reading of the Bill.


said, he must protest against the reproof with which the hon. and learned Gentleman (Sir F. Kelly) had commenced his speech, against the noble Lord the Home Secretary, as most unjust and uncalled for. The noble Lord had not only fulfilled his duty, but fulfilled it most judiciously, in stating to the House what he conceived to be the difficulties of the case, and his objections to the Bill. He had not gone a single point beyond that line; but he (Mr. V. Smith) thought the hon. and learned Gentleman had gone further than he intended, for he had conclusively shown that if the Bill was meant to be efficient, it must be made much more extensive. What was the illustration of the hon. and learned Gentleman? It was taken from the proceedings of the House last night. He said a majority of the House had decided a particular question contrary to the opinions of the most eminent lawyers who engaged in the discussion, and that it would have been indecent for the Master of the Rolls, if he had had a seat, to have expressed his opinion. But the Recorder of London, who was also a Judge, had pronounced an opinion. If, therefore, the hon. and learned Gentleman would exclude the Master of the Rolls, he ought to move the insertion of the Recorder for the City of London in the schedule; and if the Recorder of London was included, he (Mr. V. Smith) was not sure whether all other Recorders and all other persons holding judicial appointments ought not to be included also. Were not Chairmen of Quarter Sessions parties who administered justice? Ought they not, then, to be excluded from the House, upon the principle of the hon. and learned Gentleman? But, in fact, he (Mr. V. Smith) had never heard a speech that cast a greater slur upon popular and representative institutions than that of the hon. and learned Gentleman; for had he not said that any one who offered himself as a candidate for a scat in that House, exposed himself to the rabble and to personal indignity. He (Mr. V. Smith) had never so understood the representative institutions of this country. On the contrary, he had always understood that a man might maintain his personal dignity even in a contested election; and he doubted whether, as they had been told, every man who went through the ordeal of a contest was obliged to go from door to door begging for votes. He did not know what the experience of the hon. and learned Gentleman himself might have been, but he would never allow it to be said uncontra- dicted that the pursuit of a seat in that House was a matter of personal indignity to any man. It had been said by his hon. Friend the Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume) that the Mastership of the Rolls required so much time, that the holder of it would be unable to attend to his duties in the House of Commons. He (Mr. V. Smith) could only say, in answer to that, that if the Master of the Rolls neglected his duty, he was of course responsible to those tribunals and to that punishment to which every man was liable who neglected his duty. But it had not been so found when the present Master of the Rolls had a seat in that House. Could it be said that Sir William Grant neglected his duty whilst he was affording great instruction to hon. Members by attending in the House of Commons? But he warned hon. Members against excluding legal talent, independence, and station from Parliament. He perceived some hon. and learned Gentlemen opposite who sacrificed emolument and profit for the sake of attending in the House of Commons. Their presence was advantageous; they came in as party men; but if they were allowed to sit, he saw no valid reason why the Master of the Rolls should not also. The Master of the Rolls, however, was not bound to the party by whom he was appointed; and consequently his independent judgment could not-fail to be of great advantage. It was next said that the Master of the Rolls could not attend to his Parliamentary duties. The reply which he (Mr. V. Smith) made to that objection was, that it was the affair of the constituency which returned him. They must know to what he was liable when they elected him; they knew either that he could attend, or that he could not; and if they preferred being represented by a man of such dignity and consequence, they left the performance of his duties to himself. How many men were there, Members of the House, who never attended, neither day nor night? Every constituency must judge its own representative. He did not wish to limit the choice of the constituencies—he would rather extend it than otherwise; and on such grounds, if the House divided, he should vote against the Bill.


said, he must beg the House to allow him to say a few words in explanation. Nothing had fallen from him to justify the unusual degree of warmth with which the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. V. Smith) had spoken; but if he had said anything in the slightest degree inconsistent with the highest and most sincere respect for the noble Lord the Secretary of State for the Home Department, he exceedingly regretted it.


said, the noble Lord the Home Secretary was in error, when he said that to carry out the principle of the Bill, if they excluded the Master of the Rolls from a seat in the House of Commons, they must also exclude Chairmen of quarter-sessions. So far as he was concerned, as a humble member of that body, he should not be sorry, and he should feel no hesitation as to which position he should relinquish. But he did not think it could be fairly contended that Chairmen of quarter-sessions were judicial officers. The Chairman of a court of quarter-sessions received no salary, nor was he appointed by the Crown. He could scarcely be considered an officer recognised by the law, or the constitution. He was only the organ of the assembled magistrates. So far as the law was concerned, there might be different Chairmen appointed at every court of quarter-sessions which was held. There was no reason, therefore, for applying to the Chairman of quarter-sessions a rule which would not equally apply to every magistrate upon the bench. But he submitted that the whole tendency of recent legislation had been to exclude from seats in the House of Commons those who were properly judicial officers. By a recent Act, Commissioners in Bankruptcy and the Judges in County Courts were excluded. With regard to the Recorder of the City of London, he had no hesitation in saying, that, considering the nature of his duties and his judicial position, it would be better if he were excluded. He was not quite sure whether, under a recent Act, the Recorder of Dublin was not already excluded. In conclusion he would only say, that he should cordially support the second reading of the Bill; and that if a Motion were made in Committee to exclude the Recorder of London, he should support that also.


said, that if the Recorder for the City of London was excluded, no exception could be made in favour of the Recorder of York, or of any other person holding similar judicial appointments. The whole argument, indeed, of the right hon. Baronet opposite (Sir J. Pakington) went to the establishment of this point. It had been said that the Master of the Rolls was liable to indignity during a contested election, and that such indignity was discredit- able to his office and position. Were not Recorders liable to just the same? Such was the argument. But whilst considering this subject, he had searched in vain for any principle in the constitution favourable to the exclusion of Judges from the House of Commons Judges were returned to that House so late as the year 1605,. in the reign of James I.; and he found, on looking at the journals, that an objection was then taken; but what was the objection? It was not that they were Judges, but that they might be called upon to act as assistants in the House of Lords. He considered that the Master of the Rolls, having a seat in the House of Commons, was the last remnant of the constitution in respect to the eligibility of Judges, and he should be sorry to see it disturbed. The question was really one for the constituency. If they thought that Judges had time to attend to popular interests, and that the Master of the Rolls ought to be elected, they were right to act upon that conviction. That was his opinion. In the United States Judges were eligible to seats in the Legislature, and he had never heard of legislation suffering any harm in consequence. Sir William Scott was long a Member of the House of Commons, and he conferred great benefit upon the country by the luminous opinions he expressed there. Under such circumstances he must oppose the Bill, on the ground that exclusion was the exception, and admission the rule of the constitution in respect to the representation.


said, he could not allow the debate to close without expressing his opinion, at least, upon the tendency of the course which the House had been invited to pursue. It was quite true, as stated by the right hon. Baronet opposite (Sir J. Pakington), that for same years past the tendency of legislation had been to exclude persons holding judicial offices from the House of Commons. The right hon. Baronet, as well as some other hon. Members who had spoken, was desirous of proceeding in the same course. They were not quite satisfied with the Bill, and when anomalies were stated, they said they would remove those anomalies by proceeding further in the same course—that was, by removing the Recorder of London, and other Recorders if necessary, and by establishing the total exclusion of persons holding judicial offices. Now the first objection which he (Lord J. Russell) had to this course was, that it limited the choice of the constituent body. The people at large were to be restrained by law from choosing the man whom they might themselves wish to elect. He disliked all restrictions, and he declared himself opposed to them on principle. He certainly could not consent to increase the number of restrictions upon the constituent body, or to prevent them from electing men of eminent ability whom they might choose, and who were well qualified to sit in that House. He thought, too, that by the present Bill they were taking a course which would debar the people from the choice of saying who was fit to represent them. In the next place, the course proposed by the Bill tended generally to degrade the House. He could not but think that the assistance of the most eminent men—of men the most qualified by their ability, and the most known for their learning—gave a lustre to the proceedings of the House which was of great use, not upon particular questions, but in preserving the general authority and dignity of the Commons of England. For instance, take some of the men who had sat in that House while holding the office of Master of the Rolls, which, as had been observed, was one of the chief judicial situations in the Kingdom. Sir Joseph Jekyll was long a Member of that House, and so were many others, So was Sir William Grant. That most distinguished man, Sir William Grant, in one of the most celebrated debates that ever took place in the House of Commons, stood front to front with Mr. Fox; and persons who heard the arguments of those celebrated men, said the debate was one of the most extraordinary instances of the power of eloquence, and of the philosophy of law, that ever occurred in that House. Would they disqualify such a man because he held the office of Master of the Rolls? Again, he remembered Lord Lyndhurst sitting in that House as Master of the Rolls; and in a very remarkable case, Mr. Canning, Mr. Brougham, and Mr. Plunkett, were all employed upon the same side in order to meet the arguments of Lord Lyndhurst upon the other. Lord Lyndhurst, as he had said, was then Master of the Rolls. Debates of this kind, between men eminently qualified by their learning to engage in them, tended to maintain the character of the House, and to lead the people at large to look to their representatives for a display of the qualifications necessary for the discussion of great questions. Let him at the same time remark that the House of Commons was increasing, and had been for a considerable time, in power and in influence. He might also say that the power and influence of the House of Lords were practically less in the constitution than they had been. But nobody attempted to propose to exclude men holding judicial offices from seats in the House of Lords; nobody would venture to say that the Judge of the Admiralty Court and the Master of the Rolls should not sit in the House of Lords. Therefore, whilst power, authority, and influence were increasing with regard to one branch of the Legislature, the weight derived from learning and from eminent talents was increased in the other, of which the power and authority was proportionately less. He thought this contrast between the great power of the one House, and remarkable learning and high station in the other, was a contrast we should not like to see perpetuated. Let the House consider whether there were not questions upon which the opinions of men of this kind were not of great use in the House of Commons. He had always understood Mr. Pitt to say that he did not like to sit there as a Minister of the Crown without having the assistance of men peculiarly qualified to give an opinion upon the law of nations. This objection applied, he must own, to a Bill which he did not oppose in Committee, but to which he stated his objection, namely, to the Bill for excluding the Judge of the Admiralty Court from sitting in that House. Suppose a question occurred with any foreign country, such as that with France relative to Mr. Pritchard, or such as that with Russia concerning the seizure of the Vixen—questions intimately affecting the law of nations—it would be of great advantage both to the House and the Government to have a man, not one of the law officers of the Crown, or who could become one of the law officers of the Crown, but holding a certain degree of judicial weight, who could tell them, from his knowledge and study upon the subject, what the doctrines of the law of nations were upon the question—a question upon which peace or war might turn. Under this Bill the House would be deprived of such assistance with regard to the Master of the Rolls. His hon. Friend the Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume) had reminded the House that they had been making reforms in the law. It was quite true that, in these later times, many Bills for the reform of the law had been introduced into the House; and he would put this question—was it no advantage to have the Master of the Rolls among them in a somewhat different position from lawyers practising at the bar, to tell the Members of the House of Commons what were his impressions upon the subject under discussion, and to offer his suggestions for improvements? But his hon. Friend the Member for Montrose had stated as an objection to the Bill, that the Master of the Rolls could not perform the duties of the two situations—of a Member of Parliament and the Judge of his Court. He (Lord J. Russell) thought no man would seriously and soberly maintain that opinion. He did not think that any one could say that the Master of the Rolls, because he was a Member of the House of Commons, would neglect his judicial functions, and that he would not give all the time necessary for the performance of those functions, or that because he sat in a Court in the morning he should not be permitted to sit in the House of Commons in the afternoon. But it was said that he could not attend Committees. That objection, if it were valid, would apply to persons holding important offices at the pleasure of the Crown in the chief departments of the State. But the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (Sir F. Kelly) had made what he (Lord J. Russell) thought was a new objection to the Master of the Rolls sitting in the House of Commons—namely, that the turmoil and the circumstances of a contested election were hardly fitting for a Judge of so much eminence. But with that objection should also be taken the case—and it might be very often the case—that a person after having acquired a very considerable station in Parliament, and reached the judicial position of Master of the Rolls, would have so much of the confidence of a particular body of the electors that a contest would be out of the question, and that he would be easily elected every time hep resented himself. He might refer, for instance, to the position of Lord Lyndhurst, when he was Master of the Rolls. He was Member for the University of Cambridge, where certainly, after a man had been once elected, there was not generally much chance of a contest. He had said that he was sorry to see the House persisting in this course. Hon. Gentlemen who entertained the same opinion of the Bill as himself might think it necessary to divide upon it. He could not ask for a division, but he certainly shared in all the objections which had been made to the measure; for he thought the House was proceeding in a course which, while it showed distrust of the people, and of their capacity to select their Members, deprived the House of the advantage of having men among them like Sir William Grant and Lord Stowell.


said, he regretted that Her Majesty's Government deemed it their duty to oppose the second reading of the Bill. He willingly bore testimony to the high character of the present Master of the Rolls; but he thought that general propositions should not be decided upon personal considerations, and he should therefore support the Bill. A lawyer himself, no man had a higher opinion of the learning, the purity, and the integrity of the Bench; and it was because he desired to see that character preserved unimpaired that he wished all the superior Judges of the land to be excluded from seats in the House of Commons; for he could not but agree with those who thought that their efficiency would be impaired by their being eligible to a seat in Parliament. It had been asked why this Bill should not extend to the Recorder of London and other judicial officers; but he would answer that question by putting another. Why, if the Master of the Rolls were permitted to take his seat in that House, was the House to be deprived of the presence and assistance of the superior Judges of the Courts of Common Law? The objection was the same in both cases.


said, he begged to thank the noble Lord (Lord Hotham) who had brought forward this Bill for having included Ireland in the schedule. The eligibility of Judges of the Superior Courts to seats in the House of Commons was unsound in principle, and mischievous in practice, and he should therefore give the Bill his cordial support. The Master of the Rolls in Ireland was excluded from Parliament, and this Bill would only carry out the same principle in England. If the argument of the noble Lord the Member for the City of London (Lord J. Russell) were to be carried out to its proper extent, all the Acts of Parliament which disqualified persons from holding seats in that House ought to be repealed at once.


said, he wished to explain in a few words the reasons which had induced him to bring forward this Bill. At first he had apprehended, from the numerous forces which he saw on the Ministerial benches in battle array, that Her Majesty's Government meant to force this question to a division; but after hearing the reasons urged by the noble Lord the Secretary for the Home Department for thinking that this Bill ought not to pass, he had been led to believe that though Her Majesty's Ministers thought the measure inexpedient, they did not mean to persevere in any serious opposition to it. The chief objection against the Bill was, that it did not go far enough; a tolerably fair proof that there was nothing very objectionable in the Bill. That, however, was no reason for opposing the second reading, for it might be carried further in Committee if the House thought that the measure was in other respects unexceptionable. The noble Lord the Member for the City of London (Lord John Russell) opposed the Bill because it restricted the choice of electors. But the choice of the electors was already restricted, and must to a certain extent be so; and the only question was to the extent of such restriction. The choice of electors might fall upon a man for reasons which, if he were a Judge, would make him particularly unfit to be a Member of the House of Commons. They might choose him because he was a thorough-going partisan, and a "straight runner," as was said by an hon. Gentleman the other evening. Further, a Judge might be supposed to have strong influence with the Government; and although this might be a very good reason with the electors for returning him, it was a much stronger reason why he should not have a seat in that House. The noble Lord the Member for the City of London seemed to think that the character of the house would be lowered by the exclusion of the Master of the Rolls and the Chief Judge of the Ecclesiastical Court; but the noble Lord had forgotten that since the time of Sir William Grant and Sir William Scott, the circumstances of Parliament had entirely changed. Members were all now subject to popular election, and in the next Session of Parliament they were to have elections which would be more popular still. There were no nomination boroughs now, and unless the noble Lord could provide a constituency without constituents, he did not see how candidates could be returned without a canvass, in which it was not consistent with the gravity of the Judicial Office that a learned Judge should engage. The noble Lord had alluded to the period when Sir John Copley, being Master of the Rolls, repre- sented the University of Cambridge; but if be would consult his noble Colleague who sat on his right hand (Viscount Palmerston), he would ascertain that the representation of that learned University was not so much divested of trouble and canvassing as he seemed to suppose. The opponents of the Bill had not only forgotten the different circumstances in which Parliament had been placed since the Reform Act, but they had also forgotten the nature and the extent of the labour which a Member of Parliament had now to undergo. He had not, as had been imputed to him, inserted other functionaries in the schedule of the Bill as mere makeweight. Had he brought in a Bill confined to the object of excluding the Master of the Rolls from the House, that would have had an unfair and an invidious aspect. But he thought that not only the Master of the Rolls, but that all Judges properly coming within the definition of Judges of Superior Courts should be precluded from sitting in the House of Commons, and upon that ground it was that the schedule had been extended. The noble Lord seemed to think that there was no objection to a learned Judge discharging his duties in Court in the morning, and his duties as a Member of that House in the evening; but, as every hon. Member must know, there was much private business to be done before five o'clock, which a Judge could not attend to. With regard to the hardship of excluding Judges from the House of Commons, when they were permitted to sit in the House of Lords, it must be borne in mind that the House of Lords was a judicial tribunal of the last resort, and the presence of Judges in that House might be in the highest degree appropriate. The Master of the Rolls was liable at any time to be called upon to decide questions in which his own constituents were concerned. He might have to adjudicate upon the case of a charity connected with the very town which he represented—a charity having intimate connexion with the politics of the place; and by the Education Bill recently introduced by the noble Lord himself, it was provided that questions of a most exciting nature in reference to local politics might be taken into the Rolls Court. And all such questions the Master of the Rolls could only escape from deciding by the denial of a right to which every suitor is entitled—the right to choose his own Court. In conclusion, he would refer to the opinion of a very learned lawyer, who said— You must not allow a Judge to be one day seated on the bench, and the next to make his apearance on the hustings. The sort of conduct which a popular constituency naturally expects is not becoming in a Judge. That was the opinion of Lord Brougham. The opinion of another eminent lawyer he had quoted before, but it did him so much honour that he would venture to repeat it. It was the opinion of Lord Langdale, himself a Master of the Rolls. It was proposed to Mr. Bickersteth by Lord Melbourne, when at the head of the Government of which the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) was a Member, to confer upon him the office of Master of the Rolls, coupled with an intimation that Mr. Bickersteth would be expected to give his aid to the Government in one or the other House of Parliament, as the Government should think most advisable. Mr. Bickersteth said— It is quite clear that a Master of the Rolls ought not to be a Member of the House of Commons. If active, he would act inconsistently with his judicial character; if inactive, he would neglect the interest of his constituents, and of those who promoted him; and whether active or inactive in the House, he might have to adjudicate in his office between his constituents and others. So much for Lord Langdale's opinion with respect to the presence of the Master of the Rolls in the House of Commons. He added that "there was less objection to the House of Lords. There was less to do, and less squabble and heat; but still the judicial office was enough to occupy the whole of any man's time."

Bill read 2°.