Sir, an appeal has been made to me not to put a question of which I have given notice, and which has reference to a charge made a week ago in this House against one of the Judges of the land, a very esteemed Friend of mine. With that request I unfortunately cannot comply. I heard my friend charged by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland, with disregard of the obligation of his oath as a Privy Councillor. To that charge I listened with the deepest pain; but I did not interpose, because I thought that it 653 would be better to wait until I was in full possession of all the facts of the case. Of these facts I am now completely master, and, being so, I am prepared for any investigation which it may be thought right to institute, yet I am now to be told that inquiry is inexpedient, and that my mouth is to be closed, and that I am not to rebut the charge of the right hon. and learned Gentleman. Sir, I must protest against such treatment, and I confidently rely on the sense of honour and justice which distinguishes this House. I stand up not so much to repel the charge of the Attorney General for Ireland—though that also I am prepared to do—as to defend the right of an absent man—a man of as high honour as ever sat in this assembly—a man of unblemished character and unimpeachable integrity, and one of whose friendship I have ever been proud. I rise, Sir, to solicit the privilege of making a short statement, and of putting to the Attorney General for Ireland this simple question—whether he is prepared to abide by the charge which he made in this House a few evenings since against my right hon. and learned Friend the Irish Master of the Rolls? If so, I am prepared to meet him on that point. I will meet him anywhere—in this House or out of this House, and I will fearlessly declare what I honestly believe—that his charge is wanton and unfounded. That charge is, that there has been on the part of the Master of the Rolls, a disregard of the obligation of his oath as a Privy Councillor. I have myself the honour to be a Privy Councillor, and so, too, have the Lord Chief Justice of the Queen's Bench in Ireland, the Lord Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, the Lord Chief Baron, and my learned friend Mr. Brewster. We are all Members of the Privy Council, and it is essential to our honour that it should be distinctly understood what are our duties and obligations as such, for it would appear, according to the doctrine laid down by the Attorney General for Ireland, that it is part of our duty to go as informers to the Castle of Dublin, and, if we are Judges, to lay before the Lord Lieutenant the particulars of the cases which may have come under our judicial cognisance, with a view to the institution of criminal proceedings. According to the doctrine of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland the Master of the Rolls, who, by his assiduity, acuteness, and great learning, had unravelled a most notorious fraud, was 654 bound under the obligation of his oath as a Privy Councillor to put the Irish Executive in motion, and to lay before them such information as would have induced them to interfere, in order that the criminal—a Member of this House—might be brought to justice. The case of the Attorney General for Ireland is, that a crime was committed; that the criminal has fled, and is no longer amenable to the law; and that his facilities for flight and the consequent miscarriage of justice are to be attributed to a disregard on the part of the Master of the Rolls of his solemn oath as a Privy Councillor and of his duty towards his Sovereign. Sir, I heard that accusation with profound indignation, but I have now obtained an accurate knowledge of all the facts, and I am prepared to abide by any decision that the House may pronounce on the statement I am about to submit. On the 3rd of March, the affairs of the Tipperary Joint-stock Bank came before the Master of the Rolls for Ireland on a Motion under the Winding-up Act. The Master of the Rolls investigated the case with all the patience, diligence, and industry, for which he is remarkable—and that, let me assure you, is saying not a little, for there never sat upon the bench a Judge who was governed by a more intense love of justice. He saw at a glance that there had been fraud of a gross and gigantic character. He investigated it carefully and most minutely, and in the judgment which he delivered on that preliminary motion, he emphatically called attention to the swindling which had occurred, and which affected a large number of persons and a vast amount of property; and he made especial allusion to the fictitious balance-sheet that had been signed by a gentleman who professed to act on behalf of the directors. The observations which fell from the bench on that occasion were canvassed by the public press, and on the 10th of March the leading journal of this country, commenting upon the case, urged the propriety of taking measures to prevent the escape of the parties implicated, and recommended that the attention of the public prosecutor should be called to the subject. Subsequently the matter came under the consideration of a Master in Chancery, on an application relating to certain English shareholders, who had been victimised. The Master heard the case, and certainly he was of opinion—though the facts on which he based that opinion are not known to us—that those 655 shareholders were liable, and in so deciding he also released other parties from the imputation of fraud. But from that decision, there was an appeal to the Master of the Rolls in Ireland. It came on for argument at the latter end of the month of May, and was earnestly debated by some of the most learned and able men at the bar. I have a shorthand note of the proceedings, and I beg the attention of hon. Members to the importance of the dates. On the 3rd of June the arguments ended, and the Attorney General for Ireland asserts, that upon that occasion the Master of the Rolls disregarded his duty as Judge. [Mr. J. D. FITZGERALD: No, no!] I beg your pardon, I heard the charge made, and I have a distinct recollection of the words. I heard it made, and I also heard the words cheered by the right hon. Baronet the Home Secretary. The charge was that, before being prepared to give judgment, the Master of the Rolls prematurely broke out in accusations against the Government—that if the offender had escaped, his escape was attributable to this precipitate expression of opinion—and that that eminent Judge had also violated his duty as a Privy Councillor in not communicating the criminatory facts and documents which came before him to the Lord Lieutenant, who would have handed over the facts and the materials to the Attorney General for Ireland, to enable him to prosecute. On the 3rd of June, the Master of the Rolls, after alluding to the enormous frauds that had been committed, and intimating that from the very great importance of the case, his Honour would defer his judgment to a future day, said—That the Irish Government appeared to have taken no notice of the case, and he must say that, if the Government remained quiescent, they would be guilty of the greatest dereliction of their duty to the public, and could not complain if the public should say that they had connived at the matter; and that there might be no mistake about it he would read what the law was from the judgment of Lord Campbell in the case of Burnes v. Pennell (2d House of Lords' Cases, p. 524). His Honour then read from the judgment the quotation about the fictitious dividend of £15 per cent., and that directors giving such were guilty of a, conspiracy, and were liable to be prosecuted and punished, the same as the last quotation afterwards given in his Honour's written judgment. Mr. Fitzgibbon then read from the Banker's Act, that such frauds were punishable by prosecution and imprisonment; and his Honour concluded by saying, 'he would wish to know if such a system of fraud was to be carried on in a civilised country and no notice taken of it.'656 The materials for a criminal prosecution having presented themselves, the Master of the Rolls, finding that in the interval, between the 3rd of March and the 3rd of June, nothing whatever had been done to bring the delinquent to justice, declared there could be no doubt that, speaking on the authority of the opinions expressed by Lord Campbell and Lord Brougham in the House of Lords, a criminal fraud had been committed in the case which he was investigating. The real party inculpated by these observations was undoubtedly the Member for Tipperary. This occurred on the 3rd of June. In a letter addressed to me the Master of the Rolls says, that every fact and statement referred to in his judgment was supported by some one or other of the affidavits deposited in the Master's Office, or in the hands of the official manager of the bank. Thus, every source of information accessible to the Master of the Rolls was equally as accessisible to the law officers of the Crown. Soon afterwards the remarkable letter from John Sadleir to his brother, directing the latter as to the mode in which the fraud should be committed, was discovered, and having been lodged with the official manager, came to the knowledge of the Attorney General for Ireland on the 14th of June. Now, Sir, I boldly avouch that the Master of the Rolls has done his duty as a Privy Councillor. What are the obligations contained in the oath taken by a Privy Councillor? In Blackstone's Commentaries, vol. i., page 230, it is stated—The duty of a Privy Councillor appears, from the oath of office, which consists of seven articles—1st, To advise the King according to the best of his cunning and discretion. 2nd. To advise for the King's honour, and the good of the public, without partiality, through affection, love, need, doubt, or dread. 3rd. To keep the King's counsel secret. 4th. To avoid corruption. 5th. To help and strengthen the execution of what shall be there resolved. 6th. To withstand all persons who would attempt the contrary. And lastly, in general, 7thly. To observe, keep, and do all that a good and true councillor ought to do to his sovereign lord.Therefore, in the face of this House and the public, I challenge the Attorney General for Ireland, as a man of character and honour, to point out what part of this oath has not been faithfully and scrupulously observed by a Judge as fearless as he is faithful. I call upon the right hon. and learned Gentleman to state the grounds upon which he has impeached the conduct of the Judge, who, by dint of great learning, 657 assiduity, and zeal, has succeeded in unravelling a gigantic system of fraud, and in eliciting sufficient materials to enable the Law Officers of the Crown, by the exercise of proper diligence, to detect the criminal and bring him to condign punishment. Well might any man, under the circumstances, have been astounded and indignant at no inquiry being instituted, and no step taken in order to put the delinquent on his trial. The Master of the Rolls, as was to be expected, was surprised at this, and he made the observation imputed to him. Now, Sir, what occurred on the 3rd of June? A telegraphic message came across to know the day on which the Master of the Rolls intended to give his judgment in form—the Master of the Rolls having postponed his formal judgment that he might put it in a final shape. A more elaborate judgment I never read—it brings home to the parties, beyond a doubt, the case against them. That was on the 20th of June. Now, what was done between the 3rd of June and the 20th? After the judgment of the 20th of June, the Attorney General for Ireland, for the first time, applies to the Master of the Rolls on the subject. The Master of the Rolls sees the counsel of the Attorney General in chambers, and he gives the right hon. and learned Gentleman every information in his power, and tells him where to get the documents. After the 3rd of June the letter of Mr. John Sadleir to his brother James appeared. The Attorney General, on the 17th or 18th of June, said that the criminal had escaped; but mind, I do not want to mix up the two questions more than necessary. I came here to defend the Master of the Rolls, and to speak out my mind that he has been injured wrongfully in the face of the public; that a gross fraud having been detected, it has been imputed to him that through him the criminal has escaped justice. Now, I say that up to the time I have indicated, the Master of the Rolls applied his mind to the case, and furnished the means by which the criminal could be secured. It is painful to have to defend a man who has discharged his judicial duties so ably, from the observations of the right hon. and learned Gentleman, who has held him up to the world as not having discharged his duty as a Judge, and as violating his oath as a Privy Councillor. I have for many years had the satisfaction of labouring with the talented, indefatigable, and honest Master of the Rolls; the friendship 658 and regard which I contracted for him have never since its commencement for a moment diminished, and I trust it never will; and of this I am certain, that a more able and more painstaking, a more impartial Judge, and one more devoted in his duty to his Sovereign, never sat on the bench. I feel it to be most painful to have to defend such a Judge from being held up in this House as having violated his duty as a Judge and a Privy Councillor. I should be sorry if the Attorney General for Ireland were denied the amplest opportunity for offering explanations. This case must be thoroughly sifted, because the honour of this House is involved in it. A Member of this Assembly stands charged with having been concerned in a gigantic fraud, by which many innocent persons in this country would have been victimised but for the intervention of the Master of the Rolls—he has escaped from justice, and it is essential that we should inquire by whose default his escape has arisen. For myself, I can only say that in any such investigation I shall be glad to render my best assistance, with a sincere desire that every man impugned should have a fair opportunity of defending himself. I hope, therefore, that the Government will afford the earliest opportunity for an inquiry to take place. The public demands one, and it must be conceded. But the point which I wish to put to the Attorney General for Ireland is this—he may have unadvisedly and in a moment of inadvertence made this charge against the Master of the Rolls. If so, I call on him unequivocally to retract it, and frankly to acknowledge that it cannot be sustained, and then, for myself, I shall be content that this painful controversy should at once terminate. But, on the other hand, if these unfounded aspersions are not unambiguously and explicitly withdrawn—if the slightest stain is still attempted to be cast upon the spotless honour of this upright and learned Judge, I have no alternative but to pursue this inquiry to the uttermost, until we lave a full investigation into all the circumstances.
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (MR. J. D. FITZGERALD)
Sir, the House will doubtless recollect the challenge thrown down by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin, and I can assure it that I am not one who will allow him to recede from the position that he has taken up. The right hon. and learned Gentleman, 659 when he was about to impeach the character of a Member of this House, should, I think, have acted with more delicacy—more generosity—to have yielded to the suggestion of postponement, being informed that within the last hour a telegraphic message had been received, announcing that a Court of Justice has this day been desecrated, and a scene enacted in it of such a character as I confess I am unwilling to credit. Until that intelligence has been confirmed it will not do to assume that it is unquestionably authentic, and therefore I think that this question ought not to be taken piecemeal, but should be brought on when an opportunity shall have been afforded for those full and clear explanations to be given, in which I hope to be able satisfactorily to defend my own character from the attack which has been made upon it; and also to vindicate the Government, of which I am a member. If the learned Judge who has been referred to has been guilty of misconduct—and from the information I have obtained I should think there has been gross misconduct—the matter is one which demands the fullest explanation. The right hon. and learned Gentleman, however, who exhibits a plausible generosity in dealing with his political adversaries, declines to postpone his question for a single day, and calls upon me for an explanation, when he knows that I cannot have in my hands at this moment the requisite information or the full particulars of the charge. The right hon. and learned Gentleman commenced his observations by referring to the proceedings which took place on the 3rd of March, at least six weeks before I held the office of Attorney General. I was not sworn in as Attorney General for Ireland until the 14th of April. I vacated my seat in this House upon accepting office. I was subsequently charged with the performance of an important public duty—that of conducting the prosecution at Cavan against the murderers of Miss Hinds; and it was not until the 14th of April that I actually filled the office of Attorney General for Ireland, yet I am called upon by the right hon. and learned Gentleman to answer for proceedings which took place on the 3rd of March. The right hon. and learned Gentleman says—and he says he heard it—that in this House I accused the Master of the Rolls of disregarding his oath as a Privy Councillor, and of dereliction of his judicial duties. Now, I did neither the one nor the other. I ask the attention of the 660 House to what did take place on this occasion, and to put a fair construction upon the language used. I have not been in communication with any parties upon this subject, but I have derived my information solely from the public newspapers. I shall first, with the permission of the House, read an extract from a newspaper, the authority of which I think the right hon. and learned Gentleman will not be disposed to impugn. Nay, I am prepared to tell the right hon. and learned Gentleman that my information leads me to believe, that the statement in the Dublin Evening Mail is taken from a manuscript judgment of the Master of the Rolls, delivered on the 3rd of June last. I wish to call attention to the statements contained in that judgment, which led me to address some observations to this House on a subsequent occasion. The case was argued before the Master of the Rolls; and the hon. and learned Member for Cork (Mr. Deasy), one of the counsel in the case, who appeared for the official manager of the Tipperary Bank, having referred to some observations on the part of the English shareholders that there was fraud in the case in respect of which they ought to be discharged, proceeded to say:—That the evidence offered on this appeal had gone beyond the case made in the Master's office, and therefore that much of it was not admissible. The appellant had made his case without charging Mr. James Sadleir with fraud. He had never applied to amend his affidavits or alter his case. He called upon his Lordship to confine the evidence to the facts pleaded; and as there was no case of fraud by Mr. James Sadleir made on the appellant's affidavits in the Master's office, he submitted his Honour ought not to permit it to be now made.Now, I must inform the House that, from the 4th of March, this case had been under investigation in the office of Master Murphy, that James Sadleir had been examined as a witness, that he had made affidavits in the case, and that five days previously Master Murphy pronounced his judgment, in which he acquitted the parties before him, including James Sadleir, of the charge of frand. [Mr. NAPIER: The letter of John Sadleir.] That interruption on the part of the right hon. and learned Gentleman is unnecessary. The letter to which the right hon. and learned Gentleman refers was not discovered until the 13th of June, ten days after the Master of the Rolls made the observations I am about to read. The right hon. and learned Gentleman is quite right in 661 calling attention to that important letter, because I am prepared to state, that if there is a sustainable charge against James Sadleir it is based upon that remarkable letter, which did not see the public light until the 13th of June. Master Murphy, who is known to many Members of this House as a lawyer of great experience and a most industrious Judge, and of whom I may say, without meaning to disparage the Master of the Rolls, that his character stands as high as the character of that learned individual—Master Murphy, having delivered a written judgment, acquitting all parties before him of fraud, the case came on appeal five days afterwards before the Master of the Rolls, who, in the course of his observations, said:—Although, as I have stated, I intend to consider this matter attentively before giving my judgment, still there is one question which I consider it to be a duty due by me to the public to pass my opinion on at present. I wish to express my unbounded astonishment that the Irish Government have not thought fit to take any notice of this case. It is of the last importance to the interests of both parties that they should do so; and, if they choose to remain quiescent, and shrink from the duty that devolves upon them of placing this case before the prosecutors for the Crown, I think that they will be guilty of a gross dereliction of duty.When giving judgment I purpose to enter into the facts at considerable length, and I undertake to prove that, if Government determine upon continuing to be quiescent, they can have no right to complain if the public charge them with connivance at conspiracy. I repeat that the Government must interfere. They may, perhaps, pretend ignorance of the law that is applicable to this case, but I will now lay it down for them distinctly.At a subsequent stage of the proceedings the Master of the Rolls said:—It was objected that no case of fraud on the part of James Sadleir had been made before the Master. If the appellants believed that there bad been combination and conspiracy between the two brothers, and if, to avoid any question on the point raised, they desired to hand in affidavits of these matters, he would permit them to be received—the official manager to be at liberty to answer them if any new question of fact were raised by them.No one, Sir, can read that statement of the Master of the Rolls without regarding it as a distinct charge made by him from the seat of justice against the Irish Executive of dereliction of duty and connivance at crime. When I speak of the Irish Executive I speak of myself, for if there has been dereliction of duty on the part of the Irish Government it is upon me that the responsibility rests, and I am the last man 662 to attempt to shrink from that responsibility. I saw the statements I have read accidentally on the 6th of June. It happened that a copy of the Freeman's Journal, which contained a petition agreed to by the corporation of Dublin against a Bill before the House, was sent to me, and the judgment of the Master of the Rolls being in the same paper I thus became accidentally aware of the observations he had made. Shortly afterwards a question was put to me on the subject by the hon. and learned Member for Dunkald (Mr. Bowyer), which I immediately answered. Subsequently I was interrogated by the hon. and learned Member for Enniskillen (Mr. Whiteside), and finally a question was put to me by the hon. Member for Mayo (Mr. G. H. Moore), which led to the observations that are now the subject of controversy. The hon. Member for Mayo did not affect to disguise, what was apparent from the terms of his question, that its object was to impute to the Government connivance in the transactions which were the subject of judicial investigation. [Mr. G. H. MOORE: Hear!]—In answer to that question, observations fell from me in which the right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (Mr. Napier) asserts that I impeached the character of the Master of the Rolls, either judicially or in his capacity of a Privy Councillor. Sir, I wish most distinctly to deny both those assertions. I answered as fully as I could the question of the hon. Member for Mayo. I explained in detail what had taken place, and the hon. Gentleman having asked whether Mr. James Sadleir had escaped from this country, and if so, whether I could account for his escape, I replied that, from the moment the attention of the Irish Government had been called to the subject there had been no want of vigilance or activity in setting the law in force, and in rendering any persons who had been guilty of crime amenable to justice. I further stated, that if James Sadleir had left the country—a fact of which I was not aware—he had done so in consequence of the alarm created by the observations of the learned Master of the Rolls. I also said, what I state again, that I considered those observations irregular—"irregular" being the strongest observation I used. I will read from The Times the exact language that I used:—The proper course for him to pursue would have been to make an order that the evidence should be laid before the Irish law officers; or, in 663 his capacity of a Privy Councillor, to inform the Lord Lieutenant that a crime had been committed, and point out the necessity for investigation.I do not profess to quote from memory—I quote from the columns of The Times, whose reports I find to be generally accurate, and according to my recollection they are the very words I used upon the occasion. I did not say that the Master of the Rolls had violated his oath as a Privy Councillor, but I called the attention of the House to this—that if it had come before him judicially that a crime had been committed calling for the intervention of the public prosecutor there were two courses open to him. I was in this country, but my colleague the Solicitor General was in Dublin, and no one would for a moment impute to him the slightest intention in any case to connive at the commission of crime. He could have made application to my colleague or, as a Privy Councillor, he might have exercised his privilege of addressing the Lord Lieutenant, and saying to him, "A crime has been committed, something has occurred which I consider to be matter for investigation, and I give you information in order that the law may be put in motion." But, instead of doing this, the learned Judge thinks fit, from the bench of justice, to make observations so much tinged with matter of a political character as to attract the attention not only of the individual most concerned, but of the public at large; and I will say, that if James Sadleir had not left the country before that, no means more successful could be devised for driving him out of it. The right hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Napier) says this is a matter that ought to be investigated, and that he will be prepared, on some future occasion, to bring it forward. Now, Sir, permit me to say that, when I spoke before on this subject, I had only a vague suspicion that what fell from the Master of the Rolls had had the effect of driving James Sadleir from the country. I have now, however, to state, from private information, received only two hours since, that without doubt it was a short time after this remarkable language on the part of the Master of the Rolls that James Sadleir did leave the country, and that he has not since returned to it. Therefore, the statement which I made on inferences drawn from the facts turns out to be true. Let the right hon. and learned Gentleman, then, bring 664 forward his charge in a tangible shape—let him frame a Resolution on the subject and bring it before the House, and I will be prepared to meet it. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Roscommon (Colonel French) complained the other night of my observations with regard to the Master of the Rolls, and paid a high compliment to the character, and honour, and legal attainments of the learned Judge. I thought it right to state that I concurred in those observations as to the high and honourable character and legal attainments of the Master of the Rolls, but I added that I thought the observations made by him on the bench, on this subject, were irregular. Now, Sir, what has taken place since? I find that the Master of the Rolls has, in his place on the bench, made the following observations from a written paper—He had observed from the public journals that the Attorney General for Ireland had thought fit to renew the attacks which he had previously made upon him. That the Attorney General was much mistaken if he supposed that he (the Master of the Rolls) was about to rest quietly under such imputations. He would not do any such thing; but, on the contrary, would send forward by this night's post documents which would tend to impeach the course that had been adopted by the Attorney General in this case.I presume the documents here referred to were sent to the right hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Napier) on Thursday. The Master of the Rolls then goes on to say—He would also be prepared on Friday to bring forward a charge against that officer which was of a most serious nature, and strongly calculated to affect his character and his office as Attorney General—a charge which he (the Master of the Rolls) was prepared to substantiate before a Committee of the House of Commons, or any other tribunal—a charge the effects of which neither the sophistry nor mystification of the Attorney General would avail him in escaping from.I did venture to say in this House that the observations of the Master of the Rolls on the occasion referred to were irregular, but beyond that I made no charge against the learned Judge. But the result of the irregular observations is that a criminal—if James Sadleir is a criminal—has left the country. I have now, Sir, called the attention of the House to the statements made on Wednesday last, and I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman whether he can now say that the Master of the Rolls has not turned his Court into a political arena? But the proof does not rest here. A telegraphic message has been brought to me within the last hour, 665 and if the statements contained in that message are well founded as to what occurred this morning in the Rolls' Court, at Dublin, a grosser outrage in a Court of Justice has seldom been perpetrated, while, according to the message, the political observations made by the Master of the Rolls were responded to by loud cheers in a crowded Court. The House knows well that statements communicated by the electric telegraph are not always to be depended upon for accuracy, and therefore it would be unjustifiable in me to read the message I have received to the House; but it was in consequence of the statement I had received that I communicated with my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, and that he, with my entire concurrence, and with the view of avoiding a premature discussion of the case, appealed to the right hon. and learned Gentleman whether it would not be better to have the question brought forward in such a shape that, instead of a partial, we might have a full discussion on it. I think this would have been a proper course. I may be considered a political rival of the right hon. and learned Gentleman. I hold the office which the right hon. and learned Gentleman himself once held. He knows the difficulties that attach to the duties of that office, and how much firmness and fearlessness it requires, and I think, acting on high and honourable feeling he ought not to have brought forward this case till there would be an opportunity of discussing it in a regular form, and when the House could come to a decision regarding it. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has not ventured to state that there has been on my part, or on the part of the Government, any dereliction of duty. When he chooses to bring the case forward in a formal and regular shape, I shall be prepared to meet any charge he may please to prefer against me. If the Master of the Rolls has sent to him a statement in writing of what I understand he read this morning in the Rolls' Court, Dublin, I ask him—and I wish to call the attention of the House to this point—whether there are not in that paper personal charges against myself? I do not mean charges involving my personal character, for I have no fear on that point, but charges against me as a public officer, of gross dereliction of duty, of connivance at the escape of a criminal, and with the 666 knowledge that he was about to escape. If that paper is a transcript of such statements as those made by the Master of the Rolls this morning, then I say let the right hon. and learned Gentleman bring forward those charges in such a shape that this House can form and give a judgment regarding them. Let him do so at this moment, or on Monday, and I shall be prepared to meet them. The right hon. and learned Gentleman says he will never let this matter drop, if there is a charge brought against the Master of the Rolls. I tell him there is a charge against him, if the statement I have received of what he said this morning be true, and it was to see whether or not it was true that I wished this discussion not to take place to-night. If that statement is true, the Master of the Rolls has been guilty of the great offence of turning a court of justice into a political arena, and employing gross and unmeasured language, not only against me, but against the Government to which I have the honour to belong. It would not be fair, either to the Master of the Rolls or to myself, to go into this question now, as the House can form no judgment upon it; but when the right hon. and learned Gentleman brings forward his charge against me of having employed language towards the Master of the Rolls, which I certainly never intended to use, and which I believe I did not use, I shall, as I have already said, be prepared to meet it. At present the House could give no decision upon the question, and it could only lead to empty discussion. I challenge investigation. I tell him that if he shrinks from that investigation—if he fails to bring it forward—he will be pursuing a course that is not worthy of him. If the right hon. and learned Gentleman shrinks from a duty which he owes to himself, to this House, and the public; if, after the statement he has made, he fails to bring forward in a tangible shape the imputations he has ventured to make, I have to tell him that I will not let the matter rest. I shall advert now to only one other statement of the right hon. and learned Gentleman. He said, that all the evidence before the Master of the Rolls was available for my purposes. That evidence consisted of a great number, I believe, no less than 150 affidavits, which were the documents in possession of the Master of the Rolls till the 20th of June, when he delivered the 667 judgment adverted to. I am sure the House will excuse me for having trespassed so long on its attention. I have confined myself exclusively to the personal charges, but let me tell the right hon. and learned Gentleman that it is the greatest mistake, with reference to this particular case of fraud on the part of James Sadleir, to suppose that he could be subjected to prosecution for the fraud only. The director of a public company may publish false accounts, may misrepresent its balances, and there is no law, unfortunately, to make him amenable. The charge against James Sadleir is, not that he defrauded the public, but that he and his deceased brother had conspired to cheat the public by certain frauds. It is the conspiracy that forms the charge against him, and the letter discovered, for the first time, on the 13th of June, would be the real foundation of the prosecution. With these observations I leave the matter in the hands of the House, perfectly prepared, either now or at any other time, to meet any charge the right hon. and learned Gentleman may put forward.
§ MR. CARDWELL
Sir, it has been my privilege, ever since the distinguished Judge, who has been referred to in this discussion, has been on the bench, to live on terms of intimacy with him, and I feel it impossible to remain silent when his conduct is called in question before the House. To that point exclusively I shall confine the observations I now desire to make. With respect to any charge, if there be any, against the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland, I shall say no more about it than this—that he is most perfectly entitled to expect that the Master of the Rolls in Ireland will not shrink from anything he has said, but will be prepared to stand by it and substantiate it. It is the undoubted right of the Attorney General for Ireland to expect that. I will now pass entirely away from that portion of the subject. I am extremely happy to learn from the observations of the Attorney General for Ireland, that no imputation was intended to be cast by him upon the Master of the Rolls with respect to the solemn oath which, as Privy Councillor, he had taken. I understand the right hon. and learned Gentleman distinctly to disclaim having made any such charge, and the disclaimer so made must of course be unreservedly accepted. The Attorney General for Ireland 668 says that he has confined his observations to a personal charge against himself. With great respect, however, I must say, I do not think so. I noted down, while the Attorney General for Ireland was speaking, some charges which he has brought against the Master of the Rolls. Some of those charges are absolute, turning on information which is undoubtedly in his possession, and others are contingent on the accuracy of the telegraphic despatch received by him this morning from Dublin. Thus, speaking partly on certain information, and partly on contingent information, the right hon. and learned Gentleman has tonight in his place, and in presence of this House, charged the Master of the Rolls in Ireland with desecrating a Court of Justice, with being guilty of gross default, with making irregular observations, with tinging with a political colour his judicial proceedings, and with being the cause of the failure of justice by occasioning the escape of James Sadleir. The right hon. and learned Gentleman further said that the Master of the Rolls had been guilty of the great offence of converting a Court of Justice into a political arena; that he had been guilty, also, of a gross outrage on justice in making use of his position on the bench to accuse the Attorney General for Ireland in the manner which the right hon. and learned Gentleman proceeded to describe. [Mr. J. D. FITZGERALD: Hear, hear!] I observe from the cheer of the Attorney General for Ireland that I have correctly represented his statement. Then we have issue joined in the presence of the House of Commons. The Attorney General for Ireland very naturally says that, if any charge of a failure of his public duty has been brought against him by the right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (Mr. Napier) he should have indignantly demanded immediate, public, and full inquiry. Well, by the Attorney General for Ireland there have been made, against one of the most distinguished Judges of these kingdoms, grave charges of breach of public duty. The Attorney General for Ireland has truly said, that it is not for us to enter into a detailed discussion of this subject now, because, whatever particular Members may know, the House is really in possession of no information, or only of imperfect information. I am one of those who possess only imperfect information, and therefore I shall observe the caution given by the Attorney 669 General for Ireland with respect to making observations in this stage of the proceeding; but I rise, under the obligations of intimate friendship to the Master of the Rolls in Ireland, to say that this case cannot rest here. In my opinion it is the bounden duty of the Government to take every means to bring this case, thus stated, to an immediate, full, and searching investigation; and, as an intimate friend of the distinguished Judge in question, I tender my entreaty to the Attorney General for Ireland to take some means of bringing the charges he has made under the consideration of the House. I do not know whether the right hon. and learned Genman the Member for the University of Dublin means to make a Motion or not. If he does, it is, undoubtedly, the duty of the Government to afford him facilities for making it as early as possible; but if I were in the position of the Attorney General for Ireland, having made these serious and grave charges against a distinguished Judge, I would, whether the right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite made a Motion on the subject or not, myself take an opportunity of bringing these charges to an immediate and searching investigation.
§ MR. G. H. MOORE
I understand, Sir, from the tone of the right hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Napier), that something like a compromise has been offered between the two parties, but this is a matter in which the public can allow of no compromise whatever. It involves something larger and wider than even the characters of the two Gentlemen concerned, because either the Master of the Rolls in Ireland has been guilty of a gross calumny on the Irish Government, or the Irish Executive, including, I presume, the Attorney General for Ireland, have been guilty of the grossest dereliction of duty which ever a Government were guilty of. The right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland said, on a late occasion, that, from his experience of me, he had learned to believe that by my observations I meant to imply that the Irish Executive had connived at the escape of James Sadleir; and certainly from his experience of me he is likely to know that what I think and believe I would state frankly. Sir, I did mean just that. The Attorney General for Ireland must know, too, from his present experience, at least, that the Master of the Rolls has since stated what I said or meant to say at the 670 time referred to. The Master of the Rolls said on a late occasion, to which the Attorney General for Ireland has alluded, that he did not obtrude, advise, or give information privately, because it was no part of his duty to do so, and because he believed then, as now, that it would have received no attention from the Government, for reasons publicly well known. There is no mistake whatever as to what that means. It means that the Irish Executive did not interfere to prevent the escape of James Sadleir, because they did not and could not dare to meet the issue which would necessarily have been raised by the disclosures if that individual had been put on his trial. That is what the public believe in Ireland, and that is what I believe the Master of the Rolls adverted to on the occasion in question. Now, Sir, what is the defence of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland? He says that the Master of the Rolls, by his first charge, gave James Sadleir warning to escape, and that that charge was calculated to induce him to escape; and yet the right hon. and learned Gentleman, believing this, made no sign and took no step to prevent the escape of James Sadleir for a fortnight afterwards. The right hon. and learned Gentleman told me that he had ascertained that, if James Sadleir escaped, it was before he issued the information. But what was the converse of that? That the Government took care not to issue the information until they knew that James Sadleir had escaped. Which of these propositions would turn out true it is not for me to say, for that must depend on the investigation which must take place, and after which the statement of the Master of the Rolls and the conduct of the Attorney General for Ireland would be finally judged by the House and the country.
§ MR. WHITESIDE
I am afraid, Sir, that I misunderstood, in some points, the reply of the Attorney General for Ireland to a question put to him a few evenings ago. I was under the distinct impression that, in answer to that question, the right hon. and learned Gentleman made three statements. First, I understood him to charge the Master of the Rolls, in his judicial capacity, that he was the cause of the escape of Mr. Sadleir; secondly, that he had been guilty of misconduct as a Judge; and, thirdly, the right hon. and learned Gentleman made what I thought to be an unwise and unnecessary allusion to the 671 duty of the Master of the Rolls, and his oath as a Privy Councillor. Now, Sir, I should like to know what business the right hon. Gentleman had to allude to the duty and the obligation of the learned Judge as a Privy Councillor? However, I distinctly understood him to make that allusion; every Gentleman who sits on these benches, I believe, Understood him in the same sense, and I almost felt it to be my duty at the time to remonstrate with him on, what I considered, an unwise and intemperate speech, but it was deemed better to address the Master of the Rolls on the subject, and endeavour to get a statement of what were the facts of this unpleasant matter. Well, Sir, what are the facts? A case of gross, of scandalous fraud came before the Master of the Rolls. He spoke plainly and distinctly; he had a right to do so, and the Attorney General for Ireland had no right to criticise him on that account. In declaring that gross fraud had been committed the Master of the Rolls only discharged his duty; in declaring that it ought to be followed up and punished by the law officers of the Crown he said what every Judge ought to say in such a case. Well, then, he declared that a gross fraud had been committed, and in my opinion—I say it with sorrow, but I believe the public opinion of Ireland will support me—not only has fraud been committed, but there has not been displayed that zeal, that activity in bringing the offenders to justice that would have been exhibited if those persons had not possessed a certain political influence. I quite agree that the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland has a right to say that there is no case whatever against him; I think he has, and I say so advisedly; but I beg right hon. Gentlemen opposite not to suppose that they are not responsible like other men. [Mr. HORSMAN: Hear, hear!] The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland must not think to stop our mouths on a question of this kind. I say it is true that Mr. Sadleir, on the 3rd of June, walked about the hall to the surprise of everybody; that he was privately examined by Master Murphy; that there came to light a letter, the most infamous piece of evidence as proof of conspiracy that ever existed in any case of the kind. I do not know that the Attorney General for Ireland knew of it. But how was Sir John Bean Paul dealt with in this country? He was rigorously punished, though 672 not guilty of half such crimes, I believe, as those committed by Mr. Sadleir. I agree in thinking it will be matter for inquiry as to whether, until the 24th of June, any document was sought for or obtained on the part of the Crown; and this point shall be inquired into. But I repeat that I understood the Attorney General for Ireland to impute to the Master of the Rolls that he was guilty of a dereliction of duty in saying what he did in reference to the fraud committed in this case; that he was likewise guilty of impropriety in suffering Mr. Sadleir to escape; and that, as a Privy Councillor, it was his duty to go to the Lord Lieutenant and put him in possession of the materials which had come into his possession as Master of the Rolls. Now, it is true that the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland has a high character in his profession, and I wish to say nothing to detract from that character; but I think he will make a fatal mistake if he supposes that he will raise his reputation in this Honse by speaking, as he has done more than once, so severely of those whom it is our duty to respect; of those who are placed on the judicial bench, and are sworn to do their duty, and conscientiously wish to do their duty, in that responsible position.
§ MR. HORSMAN
So far, Sir, from wishing to "stop the mouth" of the hon. and learned Gentleman who has just resumed his seat, I was only sincerely desirous that he would address himself to the one point alluded to by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford (Mr. Cardwell). I now ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Napier) if he intends to bring to a distinct issue the charges he has in his hand, and which he has received by post to-day from the Master of the Rolls for Ireland? The hon. Member for Mayo (Mr. G. H. Moore) said, that one of two things has been distinctly proved—either that the Master of the Rolls has been guilty of gross calumny against the Government, or that the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland has been guilty of a culpable dereliction of duty. Sir, we accept that issue. We admit that that is the case now fairly before the House. That issue has been raised by the right hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Napier), though he had in his possession the statement of the Master of the Rolls, that on this day he would state in detail, from the judgment seat, the serious charges he had to bring against my 673 right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General for Ireland. Instead, however, of waiting for those charges, it was more convenient for the right hon. and learned Gentleman, with the present imperfect information before the House, to raise a discussion, rousing suspicions, creating doubts, and giving rise to misrepresentations, rather than allow us to come to a distinct decision upon the points on which he knows in a few hours we should be fully informed. It has been said, that the Attorney General for Ireland is responsible for the whole of these proceedings, and that if there has been any defeat of justice, the blame rests on his shoulders. Now, the fact is that, throughout the whole of this affair, from the very first moment when the intelligence of these frauds obtained publicity, my right hon. and learned Friend has made the entire Government aware of every step he has taken. I, myself, have been made acquainted with all that has been done, and there is not one of the steps taken by my right hon. and learned Friend for which I am not as fully responsible as he is. My chief object, however, in rising, was to say that I do not think it would be worthy of the right hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Napier) who has in his possession what the House has not—namely, these distinct charges under the handwriting of the Master of the Rolls against the Government, and who, possessed of those charges, made the speech which he has thought it right to deliver this evening—I say I think it would not be worthy of him, and the House would not excuse him, if he does not now raise that issue by submitting a distinct Motion to the House, allowing us to know what these charges are, whether he endorses them himself, and whether he will call upon the House to endorse them also.
Sir, the statement furnished to me I will hand to the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland. If I had received it sooner, I should have given it to him before, but it only reached me by the late post this day. Allow me to say, that that statement merely consists of facts, and not of charges. I asked for facts and dates, and those were furnished to me, and I confined my remarks this evening simply to a defence of the Master of the Rolls. I repeat that I will hand this statement to the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland, and if he and the Government do not afford me an opportunity 674 of going fully into this matter, I answer the challenge of the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Horsman) by saying, that I do undertake to see it inquired into.
§ Subject dropped.