THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (MR. J. D. FITZGERALD)
Mr. Speaker, I take advantage of the Motion for the adjournment of the House to fulfil the pledge which I gave last night, that I would call attention to the charges made by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Napier) and the Master of the Rolls of Ireland, relative to the escape from justice of a Member of this House charged with crime. I rise to perform a duty which I believe that every Member of this House owes not alone to himself but to the assembly of which he is a Member—namely, if a charge is made affecting his personal character, his conduct as a Member of this House, or his honour, to take the earliest opportunity of making to the House the statement which may relieve him from such imputations. Sir, I have lost not a moment in adopting this course, although I stand in the peculiar position that I am not at this moment aware that I have before me any assailants; for the right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (Mr. Napier) has adopted the singular course, that while he has insinuated a charge he declines to make it until he has heard the defence. Now, Sir, if I could have brought this question before the House in any shape in which it could have dealt with it—if there had been any breach of privilege, or if I could have brought it forward in any other tangible shape, I should—although the right hon. and learned Gentleman has shrunk from the performance of that which he undertook—have felt it my duty to take that course. But, Sir, it was not open to me to do so. There was no Motion which I could make, and I was forced into the position that I must either rest, probably until next Session, under the imputations which have been cast upon me as a Member of Her Majesty's Government and as a Mem- 867 ber of this House, or I must take this opportunity of relieving myself from those charges. I willingly take the latter course, and I am much mistaken if, before I sit down, every Member of this House who is influenced by the honour by which a Gentleman ought to be influenced, and by the candour which is due to that character, does not say that my exculpation is full and complete. In order that the House may understand my observations it will be well that I should, before proceeding to that exculpation, refer very briefly to what has taken place and to what is the grave imputation which has been cast upon me. The House will recollect that in consequence of some observations which fell from the Master of the Rolls of Ireland—fell from the judicial bench on the morning of Saturday, the 5th of July, and to which I need not now further advert, a question was put to me by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Enniskillen (Mr. Whiteside) in his place in this House. Now, Sir, there has been some controversy as to the answer which I gave to that question. The right hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Napier) alleged, that I had accused the Master of the Rolls of Ireland of breach of his judicial duty and of forgetting the obligations which his oath as a Privy Councillor imposed upon him. Upon a former occasion, Sir, I read the statement which I made, taking it from The Times newspaper. I have since referred to three other journals—namely, the Morning Herald, the Daily Express (a Dublin paper), and the Dublin Evening Mail. I have selected these three as being papers which do not in the least sympathise with my political feelings. I find in all of them, not identically, but substantially, the same account. Having before read the report of The Times I shall not repeat it. I will now take that of the Dublin Evening Mail. In that paper the hon. and learned Member for Enniskillen (Mr. Whiteside) is represented as making this statement:—A learned judge, from his seat on the Irish bench, had declared that a certain person ought to be prosecuted, and that it was the duty of the Government to consider the propriety of such prosecution. Now, it might hereafter be matter for serious consideration if, as had been stated, and stated also judicially, that the principal in these transactions, after having been allowed to walk about for some days subsequently unmolested, had finally left the country—it might, he would say, be matter for investigation how far the Government were responsible for not having acted 868 upon the admonition thus judicially given to them.There we find the hon. and learned Gentleman referring to a statement which had been made by the Master of the Rolls on the 5th of July, and putting forward a charge founded upon that statement, that the Government, or rather myself as its responsible officer, had been guilty of a dereliction of duty. It was in answering that question, the first upon the subject which I had answered, that I made the statement out of which this controversy has arisen. According to the Dublin Evening Mail, my answer, after stating the facts, was this:—Now, if the Master of the Rolls had adopted the course which became him, he ought to have made an order directing the evidence to be laid before the Attorney General, or, in his capacity of a Privy Councillor, he ought to have waited upon his Excellency the Lord Lieutenant and apprised him that materials were before him to enable him to declare that a Member of Parliament had been guilty of a serious breach of trust.That is as nearly as possible, if not quite, identical with the language of The Times. I have compared with it the reports of the Morning Herald and the Daily Express, and they give the same account of the matter. So that my recollection of what I intended to say, and what I believe I did say, is corroborated by four newspapers,—that I did not even allude to the oath of the Master of the Rolls; that I stated that he might, according to his judicial privilege, have communicated with me or my colleague the Solicitor General for Ireland, or have made an order that the evidence should be laid before us; or that he might, having, in virtue of his privilege as a Privy Councillor, access to the Lord Lieutenant, have waited upon his Excellency, and have communicated to him the fact that there were before him materials for declaring that a great crime had been committed. Now, Sir, when I was charged with having been the means of procuring, or at least with having connived at the escape of James Sadleir, I at once repudiated the imputation, and said that, if he had evaded justice, my inference was, that he had fled, being frightened from the country by the remarks of the Master of the Rolls, which I characterised as "irregular." Unfortunately, I had not the advantage of seeing in the House on that evening any members of the Equity bar, but, had any such been present, I 869 should have confidently appealed to them to say whether, in applying the term "irregular" to the observations of the Master of the Rolls, I did not use a mild and mitigated expression. On the following Monday the hon. Member for Mayo (Mr. G. H. Moore), taking his tone from the Master of the Rolls, and assuming that the Government had connived at the escape of James Sadleir, asked me a question on the subject. Though the language used was somewhat irritating, I endeavoured to reply with moderation, and I will read to the House my answer, as I find it reported in The Times of the 8th of July:—From the earliest moment that this case had been brought under his attention, as the executive officer of the Crown, he had taken the most active steps to prevent Mr. Sadleir leaving Ireland, even before he was in a position to issue a warrant against him; and from the report of the officers employed he had reason to believe that he had not left Ireland since the 17th or 18th of June. If he had left Ireland, it was before that date, and in consequence of the irregular observations of the Master of the Rolls.The House, I trust, will do me the justice to observe that there is no reference in those words to the conduct of the Master of the Rolls, either as a Judge or a Privy Councillor, beyond the simple fact of my applying to his observations the term "irregular." But it now appears that the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin lost no time in communicating on the subject of my reply with the Master of the Rolls; and for the character of that learned Judge I do most earnestly hope that some erroneous representation of what did take place was made to him. I trust that he was induced to take the course which he has pursued, not by an accurate version of the facts, but by some misrepresentation which led him to believe that his character as a Judge was assailed, and that his honour as a gentleman was called in question by the discreditable imputation of having disregarded the sacred obligation of his oath. The House will be good enough to remember that, in citing documentary evidence I have taken care to select my extracts from newspapers, which have no political sympathy with the party to which I belong. The quotation I am now about to make is from the Dublin Daily Express, a journal which I need scarcely say has not the slightest sympathy with the Liberal party. The Dublin Daily Express, of the 8th July, contains a report 870 of the proceedings in the Rolls Court on the preceding day, and the Master of the Rolls is represented to have expressed himself as follows—May I now inquire, on the part of the public, whether informations have been sworn in respect of the facts disclosed in this case? If so, have any effectual or bonâ fide steps been taken to make any of the parties implicated amenable? Is it intended to prefer a bill of indictment at the next Clonmel assizes, where some of the overt acts were committed? May I further inquire what is the duty of a privy councillor?Having read extracts from Blackstone's definition of the duties of a Privy Councillor, he goes on to ask—Is there anything in the duty, as thus stated, requiring a privy Councillor to obtrude his advice secretly and unasked, where the responsible advisers of the Government remain passive, and where the general facts were matter of public notoriety, and the details established by the affidavits and documents as much open to the responsible advisers of the Government as they were to me?He then makes this statement—I did not obtrude advice or information privately, first, because it was no part of my duty; and, secondly, because I believed then, and believe now, that it would have received no attention whatever from the Government for reasons which the public well know. I shall only add that if no bonâ fide proceedings be taken at the next Clonmel assizes, the result will be that the duty of a Privy Councillor and the nature and meaning of the oath will possibly meet with more discussion than the Irish Government may be aware of. There is one other matter which I omitted to advert to in giving judgment, and that is the examination of Mr. James Sadleir by the Master in his private chamber, no other person, as I understand, having been present, except the official manager and his counsel and solicitor. That proceeding has been much disapproved of, and I am satisfied that the Master would now concur with me that it is to be regretted it took place.I have no doubt that the hon. Member for Mayo (Mr. G. H. Moore) put upon the language of the Master of the Rolls a correct interpretation when he stated that the reasons why the representations of the Master of the Rolls would fail to command the attention of the Government, was that the Government shrank from making James Sadleir amenable, because they knew that, if they attempted to do so, secrets would come to light which would be little creditable to themselves. I must beg hon. Members to observe that the expressions which are liable to this construction did not occur in the delivery of a judgment, but were gratuitous statements of the Master of the Rolls, and entirely uncalled 871 for. In the Evening Mail of July 9 I find that the Master of the Rolls is represented as having made the following remarks—In consequence of an accusation which the Attorney General has made against me I shall forward to London, by this night's post or to-morrow morning, a statement in my own vindication, and I regret that in defending myself I shall be under the necessity of bringing a very serious charge against the Attorney General. I shall on Friday state in court what that charge is; and I shall make no statement which I shall not be prepared to prove before a Committee of either House of Parliament.That statement which was afterwards read in Court, I infer to be the same that reached the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Napier) on the 11th of July. The Master of the Rolls there remarks that I accused him of a breach of duty. Sir, I distinctly disclaim any such accusation. The Master of the Rolls is the Judge of an Equity Court, and in reference to the criminal proceedings of the country has no duty to perform. If in the course of a case heard before him he should be led to the conclusion that a witness has committed perjury, he has a right to direct a prosecution; or if a forged instrument be produced, he may communicate with the law Officers of the Crown, and order that the document shall be placed in the hands of the Crown Solicitor with a view to a prosecution. These are his rights and privileges, but he has no duty as regards the institution of criminal proceedings. If he or any other Equity Judge discloses to the law officers of the Crown, or to the responsible officers of the executive Government, any information leading to the inference that a crime has been committed, he certainly does an act for which the country should feel grateful to him; but he has no duty to perform in that respect. I am sure the hon. and learned Member for Wallingford (Mr. Malins) will bear me out when I say that in Courts of Equity circumstances are every day disclosed, either as to the mode in which deeds are got up, or with reference to the conduct of particular transactions, which might expose the persons concerned to a prosecution for conspiracy; but it is not usual for the presiding Judge either to direct a prosecution, or to take active steps in the preparation of one. On Friday, the 11th of July, a charge is made specifically against me by the Master of the Rolls, who delivers it from the bench of justice, 872 in the presence of a Court crowded to excess with persons induced to attend by the notice previously given. The Dublin Evening Mail contains a report of what the Master of the Rolls said on that occasion; and that it is a true version is very likely, for I am authoritatively assured that it was not printed from notes taken in the Court, but from a manuscript furnished previously either by the Master of the Rolls himself, or by some friend acting on his behalf. That this was the fact seems to be corroborated by the circumstance that printed slips of the Master's speech from the bench were circulated immediately after the speech had been delivered. At all events, there appeared in the Dublin Evening Mail what purported to be a report in extenso of the judgment of the Master of the Rolls on that occasion. But first let me read the prefatory sentences descriptive of the scene—We displace from our law intelligence the following proceedings in the Rolls Court, which took place this day. The Master of the Rolls has, in accordance with the intimation which appeared in our last, most ably vindicated himself from the charge attempted to be fixed upon him by the Attorney General; and it now remains with that learned Gentleman to account, if he can do so, for the supineness which has marked his conduct throughout the whole of the transaction, 'The Rolls Court—this day.—The Court was crowded to excess this morning by members of the bar as well as by the public. So great was the anxiety to gain admission that long before eleven o'clock, the time for opening the Court, the doors were besieged by the crowds, who absolutely forced their way in, and immediately every available place was occupied. Shortly after the Master of the Rolls had taken his seat on the bench he proceeded to pronounce the following observations in reference to the attack made upon him by the Attorney General.'This, be it remembered, is not the case of a Judge engaged in the delivery of a judgment and to whom a latitude should therefore be permitted. The case of the Tipperary Bank was not before the Master of the Rolls. This is a written statement delivered from the bench, but wholly unconnected with anything then under the consideration of the Master of the Rolls in his judicial character. This document has been published in all the London morning papers as well as in the Dublin journals. I shall not read the whole of it; I shall pass by a great deal of language of which I have much reason to complain; I shall only quote so much as will enable the House to understand the specific charges from which I have to clear myself, 873 and the mode in which they have been brought forward. The Master of the Rolls says—The Attorney General for Ireland having thought proper to accuse me of being the cause of Mr. James Sadleir's not being amenable to answer the criminal charges which the Attorney General intimates he is prepared to bring forward against him, now that he is no longer amenable, I feel it due to myself to repel that most unfounded and unwarrantable charge; and I regret that, in doing so, I shall have to put the Attorney General on his trial before the public, and I shall state no fact that I shall not be prepared to substantiate before a Committee of either House of Parliament. On the 4th of March the Motion was made before me, under the provisions of the Winding-up Acts, that the affairs of the Company should be wound-up. In giving judgment on that occasion [a report of which was published in several Dublin and London newspapers, and among others, in the Dublin Evening Mail, of the 5th of March, 1856], I distinctly adverted to the facts which implicated James Sadleir with the gigantic frauds which had been committed. In the Irish article of The Times newspaper of the 10th of March, 1856, there is the following passage:—'The Leinster Express, alluding to the connivance of Mr. James Sadleir at the tremendous frauds brought to light in the Rolls' Court says:—"It is said that that gentleman has already fled from the impending storm, but we trust that this is not the fact. The shareholders owe it to themselves and to the cause of public justice that the surviving fabricator or fabricators of the swindling report should not escape a criminal prosecution, and if Mr. James Sadleir and his coadjutors, whoever they may be, have not already gone, it is right that measures should be taken to prevent their leaving the country."' The Attorney General had no sympathy with these poor people, and closed his ears and shut his eyes to everything which was said or written in relation to the Sadleir frauds. The Attorney General, who had fallen asleep from the 4th of March to the 3rd of June, notwithstanding that every newspaper which he took up must have suggested to him the duty which he had to perform, awoke on the last-mentioned day in consequence of my observations, and an electric telegraph message was sent from London to the registrar, or some other person, to know when I should give judgment. Having intimated that I would not give judgment for some time the Attorney General turned his head upon his pillow, and again fell asleep. I am now about to state facts which the Attorney General cannot get rid of by any sophistry or mystification. On Tuesday, the 8th of this month, I applied to Mr. Meldon, the solicitor for the official manager (the official manager being absent from Dublin on business connected with his office), to know when the Attorney General, or any person on his behalf, first applied for copies of any of the affidavits or documents filed or lodged in the Master's office in this matter. On the 14th of June, 1856, a copy of John Sadleir's celebrated letter to his brother, James Sadleir, was given to the Crown Solicitor by Mr. Meldon. Surely that letter was calculated to arouse any person except the Attorney General. He, however, remained as little alive to the Sadleir frauds as he had been before. On the 20th of June, I gave judgment. The result is this: 874 —The Attorney General took no step whatever against James Sadleir until after I gave judgment on the 20th of June, although the judgments I had given on the 4th of March and the 3rd of June imposed a distinct duty upon him to do so. The letter of John Sadleir, of which he was in possession on the 14th of June, rendered it the more his duty to proceed. When did James Sadleir cease to be amenable? The Attorney General says, on the 17th or 18th of June. I believe he was amenable after I gave judgment on the 20th of June, but I shall assume that the Attorney General has been accurately informed of Mr. James Sadleir's movements, and that the date of the 17th or 18th of June is correct. How does the Attorney General account for having taken no step from the 4th of March to the 3rd of June? Every document connected with the bank was in the custody of the official manager from the time of his appointment, although John Sadleir's letter was not found until after the 3rd of June. If there was any excuse prior to the 3rd of June, what justification was there for taking no proceedings against James Sadleir from that date until after the 20th of June? The letter of John Sadleir, which the Crown Solicitor was furnished with a copy of on the 14th of June, should have awakened the Attorney General if anything could have done so. Who is responsible that no proceeding was taken against James Sadleir from the 3rd of June until after I had given judgment on the 20th of June? No amount of mystification can get rid of that plain inquiry. The real history is this,—the Master had exonerated James Sadleir on grounds which the public do not understand. There was abundant evidence against James Sadleir, independently of John Sadleir's letter, which was not found until after the 3rd of June. The Attorney General paid no attention to the observations made by me on that day, which showed that I had come to an entirely different conclusion from the Master, although I had not seen John Sadleir's letter. The Attorney General thought, I presume, that I should not be able when giving judgment to substantiate the statement I had made; and he remained passive until the judgment I gave on the 20th of June rendered it plain that he must cease to hold office, or perform his duty to the public. It was, however, according to his statement, then too late. James Sadleir, he says, is no longer amenable, and that he has not been so since the 17th or 18th of June; and he thinks it just and proper to cast the responsibility on me that he is not amenable?I shall not trouble the House by going through all the details of the argument or the other personal observations of the learned Judge. I think I have read enough for the object I have in view, namely, to let the House understand the nature of the imputations; and from the last sentence I have quoted nobody can doubt that the Master of the Rolls, from the bench of justice, intended to and did convey the charge that, for some reason or another which I suppose he presumed the public would comprehend, the Government connived at the escape of James 875 Sadleir and forbade his prosecution—that I, as the responsible organ of the Government, obeyed its mandate, favoured that escape, and only by the positive danger of losing the office which I hold was at last forced to perform the duty I owed to the public. I say with the most unaffected candour, that if one tittle of that accusation were, fairly chargeable upon me—if I were to leave one word of it unanswered, I should be utterly unfit for the office now entrusted to me. Let me tell the House what interpretation was put upon the language of the Master of the Rolls. I believe that in the entire history of jurisprudence—in the annals of any Court of Justice in this country, you will look in vain for a parallel to the proceeding of the Irish Master of the Rolls on the 11th of July. I would confidently appeal to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford (Mr. Cardwell), who avowed himself, the other night, a friend of the Master of the Rolls—I would appeal to him, although I cannot call him my friend, as a gentleman and a man of candour, which I know him to be, whether he can stand up in his place in this House and—I will not say defend, but—palliate or excuse the unprecedented course taken by this learned Judge. Indeed, I have endeavoured to bring myself to the conclusion that the Master of the Rolls must have been irritated and excited by some gross misrepresentation of what occurred in this Assembly a few days previously, and that if he had known what really took place, he never could have allowed himself such extraordinary licence. I shall read from a Dublin paper of the following morning the construction given to the language of this learned Judge, and to the charge from which I have to vindicate myself. On Saturday, the 12th of July, alluding to the transaction before the Master of the Rolls, this journal says:—We have no hesitation in stating our deliberate belief, and in declaring that it is the conviction of all men in the country—lay and professional—that the Attorney General has delayed and declined to prosecute, and has permitted to escape a transportable felon, and that he has done so for private or party motives.Sir, I think it is impossible for any Gentleman in this House to be called upon to repel an accusation more grave or to be charged with conduct more base or more abominable than that here ascribed to me. With these preliminary remarks I shall now proceed to state to the House the 876 course which I have pursued, and to offer that complete exculpation of myself which I am enabled to submit. I refer, in the first place, to the 4th of March, as the earliest date in this case. One of the imputations cast upon me by the learned Judge is, that on that day he pronounced a judgment which ought to have roused me from my torpor, and taught me my duty to the public. I have searched for that judgment, and I now extract it from The Times—a journal from which I hope I shall be excused for making most of my quotations. The death of the unhappy gentleman who committed suicide in London in February last, led to disclosures with which at present we have nothing to do. It is, however, placed beyond a doubt that that unfortunate man was guilty of the grossest crime—forgery and frauds of various descriptions; and shortly after his decease the Tipperary Bank, with which he had been connected, and to which he was indebted to an amount exceeding £200,000, stopped payment. The consequence was that one of the shareholders presented a petition to the Court of Chancery under the Winding-up Act, with the view of having the Bank dissolved, its property, such as it was, realised, and the deficiency made good from among the contributories. This petition came in the ordinary course before the Master of the Rolls on the 4th March; and it appearing from the affidavits before him that the proceedings were promoted by the solicitor who had previously acted as solicitor for James Sadleir, the Master of the Rolls, in giving his judgment, observed—The late John Sadleir was permitted by his brother, the sole director and manager of the bank, to overdraw his account to the extent of £200,000, without the knowledge, consent, or privity of a single other contributory or creditor, so far as this Court has heard or knows. The liabilities of the bank are altogether, in round numbers, £400,000; it was in a state of the most hopeless insolvency on the 1st of February last, and the assets are not pretended to be more, in round numbers, than £35,000.This is the judgment to which the Master of the Rolls subsequently referred, and which I did not see until, in consequence of his observations the other day, I looked for it, and found it. It may be matter of blame in me, holding the office which I do, that I did not read the Irish papers so regularly as I ought to have done; but I can only state that, up to the time when my attention was first called to this judgment, I had never seen it. Assuming, 877 then, that the circumstances stated by the Master of the Rolls were perfectly true, such is the defective state of the law, that James Sadleir does not appear, upon that statement, to be guilty of any offence that would bring him within the reach of the criminal law. The charges against him were twofold. First, that, being the managing director of the Tipperary Bank, he had been guilty of a gross breach of trust, in permitting his brother to obtain assets of the bank to an amount exceeding the sum of £200,000. No doubt that was a gross breach of trust with regard to the shareholders of the bank and its creditors, but, like many other breaches of trust, it did not bring James Sadleir within reach of the criminal law. It was said, secondly, that James Sadleir prepared the flourishing but false statement issued in the month of February; but, assuming that charge to be true, it would not render him amenable to a court of criminal jurisprudence. The result of investigation has been to show that the criminal law of the country is, in this respect, in a most unsatisfactory state. You cannot punish frauds of this kind directly, but there is a circuitous course which partakes more of the nature of a civil than of a criminal proceeding, namely, that if parties have, by means of common agreement, effected an object sometimes lawful but sometimes unlawful, they may be indicted for conspiracy for the illegal agreement. I am satisfied that no lawyer who hears me, and who is acquainted with the criminal law, will entertain any doubt that, assuming all that the Master of the Rolls stated on the 4th of March to be true and capable of proof, he had disclosed nothing which brought James Sadleir—however morally culpable—within reach of the arm of the criminal law. I have read the reports in several newspapers, and I do not find the slightest allusion by the Master of the Rolls to any criminal proceeding whatever. It may possibly be said that I was chargeable with some neglect in not having read the judgment delivered by the Master of the Rolls on the 4th of March; but I may inform the House that on the 5th of March I received from the Master of the Rolls a letter written by him on the previous day (the 4th), immediately after he had delivered his judgment. I dare say the right hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Napier) expects to find in that letter some allusion to the Tipperary Joint-stock Bank case. At the time the letter was sent to me 878 I was—I will not say, on terms of intimacy with the Master of the Rolls—but I knew him, and there had never passed between us, upon any occasion, a single discourteous word. On the 4th of March, the Master of the Rolls wrote me a letter, dated "Merrion Square, Dublin," in which he said, "My dear Solicitor, I have just received your letter. I have only concluded the business at the Rolls to-day." The Master of the Rolls had then just delivered the judgment which has been referred to. I need not trouble the House with the remainder of the letter, which was a reply to a communication I had addressed to the Master of the Rolls, with reference to the proceedings of a Committee on the reform of the Court of Chancery, which was then sitting, and of which I was chairman. I merely allude to this letter because, being sent to me as Solicitor General by a Judge who communicated with me on terms of friendly courtesy, addressing me as "my dear Solicitor," and being written only a few minutes after he had delivered his judgment, it might naturally be supposed that if he then thought it the duty of the executive to institute a criminal prosecution he would assuredly have expressed such an opinion in his letter. As the Master of the Rolls failed to do so, the case was not one likely to attract my attention. I replied to that letter, and I received another letter, written by the Master of the Rolls upon the same business on the 25th of March, stating that he would be in London, and would meet me here on the 31st of March. There is not in that letter either the slightest allusion to the Sadleir frauds or to the duty of the Government. I had gone to Dublin about the 11th of March, and I remained there till the 30th. On the 31st, I believe, I resumed my place in this House. I then saw the Master of the Rolls here, and I conversed with him under the gallery for more than an hour on the subject of the Committee to which I have previously referred. I undertook to procure for him certain papers to enable him to give evidence which would be beneficial to the public. I sent those papers to his hotel; I had several communications with him; but neither in his personal communications nor otherwise did he ever suggest that any steps should be taken on the part of the executive. He never said, "Mr. Solicitor General, I wish to call your attention to the Tipperary Bank case, or to my observations on the 4th of March, 879 which will show you that you have a duty to perform." Well, Sir, on the 2nd of April I was obliged to leave London, the noble Lord at the head of the Government having offered me the office of Attorney General for Ireland, which I accepted, though I did not formally enter upon the discharge of its duties until the 14th of April. Pressing business was immediately forced upon me. I had to conduct the prosecution in the case of the murder of Miss Hinds and other cases at the special commission; and so urgent and pressing were my engagements that I was obliged to sacrifice all personal considerations, my constituents even re-elected me in my absence—an act for which I cannot be too grateful to them. On returning to my place in this House, on the 16th of April, I received from the Master of the Rolls the papers with which I had furnished him, along with a complimentary note, which I am unable to read, as it was thrown aside; I only allude to the circumstance to show that, up to that time, I had never received the slightest suggestion from him that I had any duty to perform. It may be said possibly that the Master of the Rolls did not apply to me previously to this time because I stood then in the position of Solicitor General, but that he would apply to the Attorney General. Let it not be supposed that I wish to shrink from the least responsibility. I accept it most cheerfully. On the 4th of March my late colleague (Mr. Justice Keogh) was absent at the assizes, and he only held office until the 2nd of April, and, in justice to him, I must say that I cannot describe in language too strong the assiduity with which he discharged the duties of Attorney General during the time—upwards of a year—which I held office with him. I think, however, if the Master of the Rolls had thought the attention of the Irish executive ought to be directed to the Tipperary Bank case he would have made some allusion to the subject in the frequent communications that took place between us. I am now covering the period from the 4th of March to the 3rd of June. It appears that the Master of the Rolls having made an order for reference, after the 4th of March the case went into the office of Master Murphy. The Masters in Chancery in Ireland, I may observe, stand in a position somewhat differing from that of Masters in Chancery here. In Ireland their position more nearly resembles that 880 of a Vice Chancellor; they have original and very extensive jurisdiction. The case, as I have said, went into Master Murphy's office, and on the 19th of March he held a private examination of Mr. James Sadleir, the person against whom a charge is now made. I only allude to this circumstance, as showing that if Master Murphy had reason to think that the parties before him wished to prosecute Mr. James Sadleir for any crime connected with the administration of the Tipperary Bank, that private examination was a most unwarrantable proceeding. There were at that time several parties who might prosecute—the Irish shareholders, the English shareholders, and the creditors. Any of these parties might have instituted a prosecution against James Sadleir, but they were the parties who set the matter in motion for a private examination, with the view of discovering property which might be available for them, and I believe I do not make any misrepresentation in stating that at this very moment those three classes of persons—or, at least, two of them—are entirely averse to a prosecution of James Sadleir. Before I proceed I may be allowed to explain that great misconception exists with regard to the position of the Attorney General for Ireland. I heard the other day, to my great surprise, from an hon. Member, that he supposed, as Attorney General, I had nothing to do but to go to my office and write a warrant for the arrest of James Sadleir. I am happy to say that that supposition is unfounded, and that in that respect the Attorney General for Ireland possesses no greater power than the meanest individual in the land. It is one of the principles of our glorious constitution that the meanest subject cannot be deprived of his liberty—unless he is detected in the actual perpetration of a felony—without a warrant, and that warrant can only be issued upon sworn informations before a magistrate. The Attorney General for Ireland occupies a most responsible position, and has most onerous duties to discharge, but generally speaking he originates no proceedings. If a crime has been committed, cognizance is taken of the matter by the resident magistrates, or by the constabulary. Informations are taken before magistrates, and if the cases are returned for trial those informations are laid before the Attorney General, whose duty it is to read them all, and to pronounce his rule on each case, whether 881 a crown prosecution should or should not be instituted. It is not, however, the practice to conduct prosecutions at the public expense except in cases where the public peace has been broken. It is not the practice to prosecute at the public expense in cases of private fraud. One remarkable instance, illustrative of this, occurred about ten years ago, when a stockbroker who had been guilty of extensive and gross frauds was prosecuted, not by the Attorney General, but by private prosecution. If, for example, a forgery is committed on a bank, the individual or individuals accused are not prosecuted at the expense of the public, unless there are some extraordinary circumstances connected with the transaction. However, to return to the case on the 17th of March, James Sadlier underwent a first examination before Master Murphy, and a second on the 23rd, and on the 28th of March Master Murphy gave his judgment. Up to that date, as I have shown, no creditor, or shareholder had lodged any complaint; no one had given information or taken any steps whatever to put the law in motion, though it was open to any one of the parties interested to have done so. On the 28th of March, Master Murphy delivered his judgment, from which I shall read the following extract:—[The right hon. and learned Gentleman here read an extract from the judgment of Master Murphy, to the effect that, according to strict legal principles, the evidence was not sufficient to lead to a charge of fraud against James Sadleir.] Such was the opinion of the Master, and then he went on in an elaborate and able judgment to acquit James Sadleir of any participation in the frauds of his brother. But the House will remember that up to the 3rd of June, and for ten days afterwards, the remarkable letter of John Sadleir, dated the 21st of December last, had not been discovered. The judgment of Master Murphy was appealed against to the Master of the Rolls. The hearing lasted five days, and on the 3rd of June the Master of the Rolls made those observations which constitute one of the attacks that have been so much commented on. The House will observe that up to this time there was no ground on which to institute a prosecution against James Sadleir; no one had complained or urged prosecution, and Master Murphy had acquitted him of all participation in the frauds of his brother. I shall now account for the transactions from the 882 3rd of June to the 20th of June. On the 3rd of that month the Master of the Rolls made the following among other observations:—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 the 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.That statement appeared in the Dublin newspapers on the 4th of June, and the House will observe that the Master of the Rolls says in it he "had a duty to the public" to perform, which coerced him to give such observations to the world. The learned Judge, let me observe, owed a duty to the Crown, and, if he owed a duty also to the public that duty would have been best performed by putting himself in communication either with myself or my learned colleague the Solicitor General for Ireland, or, if there was any cause why he was offended with me, he might have communicated with the responsible officers who took charge of all public prosecutions. In the course which he took, however—in honestly performing the duty which he supposed was incumbent upon him—the learned Judge did that which must have been more successful than any other he could have adopted in driving the criminal beyond the reach of the law. He says I was at last roused from my sleep, and sent a telegraphic message to ascertain when he (the Master of the Rolls) would deliver judgment; and then, on receiving an answer, I fell asleep again. Now, Sir, nothing can be more unjust or unfounded than this, and my only excuse for the learned Judge is, that I believe he must have been misled by a gross misrepresentation of the facts. I saw the judgment of the Master of the Rolls accidentally on the 6th of June, when a copy of the Freeman's Journal reached my hands. On receiving that 883 paper I cut out the statement said to have been made by the learned Judge, and wrote to the Crown Solicitor the letter which I now hold in my hand. Let me state for the information of the House, that the Attorney General for Ireland has under him certain officers called Crown Solicitors, whose duty it is to conduct criminal prosecutions. The gentleman at present holding the office in Dublin is Mr. William Kemmis, of whom I am bound to speak with the greatest respect, and who discharges his duties with untiring diligence and trustworthiness. There can be no concealment of anything here, for Mr. Kemmis is a gentleman who never allows political feeling to interfere with his duty, and I may add, that his political views are not at all in accordance with those held by me. On the 6th of June, then, I wrote to him this letter, and I consider it so very important to my case, that I must intrude on the time of the House by reading it.Irish Office, Whitehall, June 6, 1856.'Tipperary Joint-Stock Bank Winding-up.'My dear Sir—I have just received a copy of the Freeman's Journal of Wednesday, and have cut from it a report of some observations of the Master of the Rolls, represented to have been made in the course of the discussion of the appeal in this case. I annex the extract to this letter.At the present moment I am entirely uninformed as to the facts on which his Lordship's observations are based, but I assume that he would not have given utterance to opinions so strong, if the evidence before him did not make it a duty to do so.The ordinary course for a Judge to pursue under such circumstances is, to make an order that the parties shall hand over the documents, &c., to the Crown Solicitor to be laid before the Attorney General for his direction, and probably when the learned Judge comes to deliver judgment he will adopt that course.In a case, however, of such importance, I wish that in the meantime you should take some preliminary steps, so as to be in a position to act with promptitude and decision.I have already telegraphed to you to ascertain when the Master of the Rolls is to deliver judgment on the appeal—my present intention being to be represented by counsel on that occasion—and I desire also that you should put yourself in communication with the official manager and his solicitor, and with the solicitor for the appellants, with a view to ascertain whether they can place at your disposal any materials to guide my judgment as to the future course to be pursued.I shall be ready to proceed to Dublin myself if necessary. Believe me, &c.,J. D. FITZGERALD.The Crown Solicitor, &c.That letter was written on the moment after I had seen the observations of the Master of the Rolls, and sent by the late 884 post on the 6th of June. The House will observe that this was the only step I could take, and that it was taken within half an hour of the time I first read the observations of the Master of the Rolls. In the office I hold I have grave and important duties to perform, duties enough to occupy my whole time even if I had no Parliamentary duty to discharge, and in this matter I could only act through my subordinates. Accordingly, in plain, specific, unambiguous language, I gave my directions to the Crown Solicitor, and that gentleman followed out with diligence the directions he had received. I received from the Crown Solicitor a letter dated the 7th of June, from which I extract the following:—45, Kildare Street, Dublin, June 7.My dear Sir—I received your letter this morning with an extract from the Freeman's Journal, of Wednesday last, containing a report of observations said to be used by the Master of the Rolls in reference to the affairs of the bank. The expressions are very strong indeed, and have been a good deal commented on here. I intimated to you by telegraph yesterday, that his Honour will deliver judgment in the case in the course of the ensuing week. That no day had been definitely fixed, but that he would give intimation a day or two before.I have only to add, in conclusion, that I shall be prepared to give my best attention and co-operation to such directions as I may receive from you on this subject.Accordingly, the Crown Solicitor put himself in communication with all the persons concerned, including Mr. Macdonall, the official manager; Mr. Meldon, his very intelligent solicitor, and the solicitor for the English shareholders, requesting that they would furnish him with all the information that was in their power. It is quite clear that I could not act on the judgment of the Master of the Rolls. I had to ascertain that a crime had been committed before I could be justified in putting forth the arm of the law against a delinquent. Having stated in the letter which I addressed to the Crown Solicitor, that I was prepared to proceed to Dublin, I accordingly took advantage of there being no pressing business on the paper for Wednesday, the I2th of June, and left on the 11th of June for Dublin, in order that I might hear the Master of the Rolls' judgment. I arrived in Dublin on the 12th of June, and on that I day found that the Master of the Rolls had postponed his judgment till the following week. Now, Sir, what did I do on my arrival in Dublin? I sent for the Crown Solicitor, and asked him whether he had 885 been able to get any information. He told me that he had not; that he had received a letter from Mr. Meldon, the solicitor to the official manager, requesting him to wait until the Master of the Rolls had delivered his judgment, when he would put all the documents into his possession. I then asked him whether he had not been able to get any witness to make a preliminary information? He replied that he had not. Being obliged myself to return forthwith to London, and knowing that my learned colleague the Solicitor General had a great deal of business to attend to, and that perhaps he bad not as much experience of the administration of the criminal law as some other legal Gentlemen have had, I thought it advisable to hold a conference with him on the same day, in order that he might be put in possession of the facts, and, being on the spot, might be able to give directions. I have the most entire confidence in the learning; skill, and judgment of my learned colleague the Solicitor General, and I believe no Attorney General for Ireland was ever more fortunate in his colleague than I have been. He was selected, not for his political opinions, but solely for his merit—I say emphatically solely for his merit—and I am happy, indeed, in the possession of such a colleague. I thought it desirable to have a conference with him, and I knew it would be agreeable to him, as I could not myself act with him on the spot, that in the difficult and complicated case which might arise he should have some assistance. Well, Sir, whom did I select for his assistant? The ablest man, I believe, for such a case that the Bar of Ireland could furnish. I selected a gentleman whom the right hon. and learned Member opposite (Mr. Napier) alluded to the other evening as his highly-valued friend—I mean Mr. Brewster. I speak of that very learned gentleman with the utmost confidence, and I believe at the Irish bar he stands pre-eminently in the first position, both as regards his practice and his experience. Well, Sir, I put myself in communication with Mr. Brewster, and solicited him to assist the Solicitor General in this case. We held a conference on the day in question; I unfolded my views, and, according to a minute of the conference which I have before me, the result which we—that is to say, the Solicitor General, Mr. Brewster, and myself—came to was, that, having no materials upon which to form an opinion as to whether or not there was any 886 evidence to maintain a criminal prosecution, we could take no further steps until after the Master of the Rolls had given his judgment. That was on the 12th of June; the judgment was expected early in the next week. At that time no party had been named, though James Sadleir was known to be the individual implicated; but, under the circumstances, having no documentary or other evidence upon which to found ourselves, we deemed it expedient not to attempt to make any person amenable under the criminal law until the Master of the Rolls had delivered his judgment. I set out on my return to London the same day, leaving full and explicit directions behind me, leaving the case in the hands of my learned colleague the Solicitor General and of my junior counsel, together with the right to call in the assistance of Mr. Brewster whenever necessary. I ask any Gentleman who hears me to say whether I omitted any step which the most prudent and most active officer could have taken? But I have not told the House all. I directed that, in order that we might be put in a position to form a judgment in this difficult and complicated case, a renewed application should be made to Mr. Meldon, the Solicitor to the official manager of the Tipperary Bank, for all the information in his power. That was done, and I hold in my hand the letter which Mr. Meldon addressed to Mr. Kemmis, the Crown Solicitor, on the 14th of June, in reply to that renewed application. It is to the following effect:—Chambers, 14, Upper Ormond-quay, Dublin,Saturday, June 14, 1856.Re Tipperary Bank.Dear Sir,—There are 150 affidavits in this case, and it would be a most laborious undertaking to wade through them all. The Master of the Rolls will give judgment on Wednesday, and you will then be able to select those you require; I would therefore suggest the prudence of your waiting until then. Besides, the briefs are with counsel, and I could not with convenience give you I the copy sooner. Yours truly,W. Kemmis, Esq." J. D. MELDON.That letter is dated the 14th of June, and yet the Master of the Rolls makes it a charge against me that having been roused from my sleep on the 3rd of June, I did nothing until he had delivered his judgment on the 20th. If I did nothing it was because there was no information available, because I could not obtain possession of the documents, because on two occasions Mr. Meldon, the solicitor to the 887 official manager, told us to wait until the Master of the Rolls had delivered his judgment, when we could obtain a knowledge of all the facts. But the House will perceive that it is not correct to say that I took no steps between the 3rd of June and the 20th. In addition to what I have already told the House, I have to state that, in consequence of an application to another gentleman, a brief of the affidavits was prepared on the 15th of June, and was with me in London shortly afterwards. It was not a pleasant duty to perform, but I read the whole of the 150 affidavits—I waded through every one of them. Moreover, Mr. Kemmis having got a copy of the remarkable letter from John Sadleir to his brother, James Sadleir, which was discovered somehow or other on the 15th of June, sent it to me in London. I received it on the 16th, and the moment I read it I saw it was a very important document, and might probably be made the ground of a proceeding against James Sadleir. Still nothing effectual could be done until the Master of the Rolls had delivered his judgment, because until then Mr. Meldon would not give the Crown Solicitor the documents; and though the letter of John Sadleir might form the foundation of any proceeding that might be ultimately adopted, yet by itself it was worth nothing, being merely evidence of a previous agreement between the two brothers for the accomplishment of a fraudulent purpose. On the same day—the 16th of June—I wrote to the Crown Solicitor to the above effect, and in that letter, after some directions with which I need not trouble the House, I said, "I shall be ready to proceed to Dublin when required, and in the meantime would desire to be kept fully informed of the proceedings." I could only act through my subordinates; I was obliged to leave the case in their hands, always subject, of course, to my directions, requesting them at the same time to keep me fully apprised of their proceedings. Having thus accounted for the interval between the 3rd of June and the 20th, I proceed to state that on the 2lst I was informed of the judgment given by the Master of the Rolls on the preceding day, my informant being Mr. Thomas Kemmis, Crown Solicitor on the Leinster circuit, and son of the gentleman to whom I have so frequently referred. Mr. Thomas Kemmis is a gentleman of whom I would desire to speak with the greatest respect. He was appointed by the right hon. and 888 learned Gentleman opposite (Mr. Napier), and one of my first acts in this House was to bring under its notice the circumstances connected with his appointment, which I believe I ventured to designate as a "job." On that occasion, however, I took care not to disparage the character of Mr. Kemmis, and I am bound to say that I have never met with a more active, intelligent, or efficient public servant. During the progress of this case I have received from him the most valuable assistance, although it was not in the line of his duty. On the 21st, as I have said, I received a letter from him containing his description of the judgment of the Master of the Rolls, delivered on the previous day, and stating that he had sent me a copy of the Evening Mail containing the judgment in full. The Evening Mail did not arrive, but without waiting until it reached me, I despatched a letter to Mr. Kemmis, by the earliest post, containing the following instructions:—Irish Office, Whitehall, June 21, (2.30).Tipperary Joint-stock Bank.I have just received yours of yesterday, but the copy of the Mail containing report of judgment has not arrived.I entirely approve of the course pursued by Mr. Donohoe, and of your having a conference with Mr. Solicitor and Mr Brewster.With my imperfect knowledge of the case, it would be dangerous if I were to attempt from this place to direct proceedings; you had better, therefore, receive your immediate directions from Mr. Solicitor, but keep me as far as possible apprised of all steps to be taken.It seems to me that there is a case on which Mr. James Sadleir may and ought to be prosecuted for a conspiracy, and that it is of that magnitude and serious character as to render it expedient that the prosecution should be at the instance of the Crown, and under the direction of the Attorney General.The question of venue is, then, to be considered; as yet I see no evidence of an overt act, in pursuance of the conspiracy committed else-whore in Ireland, than in the South Riding of the county of Tipperary.If the trial is to take place there, can you be ready in time for approaching assizes at Clonmel? For many reasons it would be desirable that this case should be brought to a speedy issue, and not deferred until the Spring Assizes of 1857.Now, Sir, I am accused of endeavouring to evade my duty. Here is my answer to that charge; here are the directions which I gave at the time under the full idea that James Sadleir was still amenable; and, among other reasons, with the view of providing this House, in considering the expediency of his expulsion (which would have followed as a matter of course upon his conviction), with the legal and constitutional 889 means of acting as in its wisdom it might seem fit. The House will observe that I say in my letter, "It would be dangerous if I were to attempt from this place to direct proceedings; you had better, therefore, receive your immediate directions from Mr. Solicitor." Mr. Kemmis had also the assistance of my junior counsel, whose talents and skill are well known to the right hon. Gentleman opposite, and are, indeed, beyond dispute. That letter of mine arrived in Dublin on the 22nd of June, and on the previous day the Solicitor General, Mr. Brewster, and the junior counsel, had held a consultation. Now, whatever may be my defects, no one, I am sure, will accuse my respected colleague, or Mr. Brewster, of any complicity in this transaction—their characters stand too high, and the latter certainly is not a sympathiser with the present Government. Well, those learned Gentlemen met upon the 2lst of June, they had before them a brief of all the affidavits, and they came to the conclusion that James Sadleir had, indeed, committed a crime, but that it was a crime of a peculiar character—that is to say, that he was chargeable, not with his brother's misdeeds of forgery, or perjury, or fraud, but that he had agreed with his brother to pass off certain shares of the Tipperary Bank to English shareholders by means of false representations as to the state of the accounts, by publishing a false balance sheet, and what I may term fabricated and chimerical accounts. The charge against him, then, was not one of felony but of conspiracy, which is a misdemeanor, the person guilty of it being liable to imprisonment for two years. James Sadleir was not chargeable with the frauds of his brother John, except with relation to the Tipperary Bank; and in that case the crime went only to the extent of conspiracy, for having "agreed" with his brother; because, I regret to say, that the publication of false accounts is no crime cognisable by the law. Those learned gentlemen then came to the conclusion that, though an offence had been committed, it was not one in which the Crown ought to prosecute. In the meantime, however, my letter of the 21st, stating a different opinion, was on its way to Dublin. It arrived on Sunday, the 22nd, and, in consequence of it, Mr. Kemmis called upon those gentlemen to meet again. They did meet again, upon Monday, the 23rd; they reconsidered the case, 890 and I have now in my hand the minute of their conference, which contains matter of such importance that I must ask the indulgence of the House while I read it.The Solicitor General, Mr. Brewster, Q.C., and Mr. Donohoe (with Mr. T. Kemmis, Crown Solicitor, in attendance), having met in consultation, are of opinion that though the facts stated by the Master of the Rolls, in his judgment 'In re Ginger,' would, if satisfactorily proved, establish a primâ facie case, upon which a prosecution for conspiracy could be sustained against James Sadleir, yet are further of opinion that the case is not one to call for the interposition of the public prosecutor.Viewing the question as a legal one, it appears more than doubtful whether such a prosecution would be successful; it could not be sustained without the evidence of persons referred to in the judgment of the Master of the Rolls, who themselves participate in the criminal acts enumerated, and who would therefore be at liberty to withhold their evidence on the ground that it might criminate themselves, an objection of which it is probable that they would avail themselves. It would also appear that the greater part of the information upon which the charges of fraud and conspiracy are founded was obtained from the persons implicated, including James Sadleir, and that they made those disclosures before a Master of the Court of Chancery, in aid of the winding-up proceedings, without receiving any caution, and probably upon a reasonable expectation that statements made under such circumstances would not be used for the purposes of a criminal prosecution. It has not, heretofore, been the practice in Ireland for the public prosecutor to institute prosecutions against persons accused of frauds on individuals; such cases have been left to the parties aggrieved; and though from the extent and magnitude of the frauds imputed, this case might at first sight appear to be an exceptional one, yet as none of the persons defrauded have come forward to prefer any accusation, it seems inexpedient to depart from the general rule. The fact that no one has sworn informations, or taken any step to institute a criminal prosecution, affords a strong presumption that those who are most interested in the matter consider it would not be prudent to take such a course; and though, in the administration of criminal justice, the public prosecutor's duty is to act without reference or regard to the wishes or feelings of individuals, yet this is only within his proper sphere of action, and ought not to be extended to cases like this, where the crime imputed is not in the proper sense one against the public, but a fraud on individuals. It is not to be overlooked that all those who participated in the frauds charged are now assisting the official manager in his endeavours to wind up the concern, and realise something for the creditors; and it is not impossible that a criminal prosecution would seriously affect his proceedings, and tend to inflict a further pecuniary loss upon the creditors and other sufferers by the bank.Under these circumstances, and especially considering the limits within which the public prosecutor in Ireland has hitherto acted in instituting criminal prosecutions at the public 891 expense, this case does not call for his interposition.(Signed) "J. CHRISTIAN,A. BREWSTER,June 23rd." "THOMAS DONOHOE.That document was forwarded to me on the same day, and it reached me on the 24th of June. Having carefully perused it, I am bound to say, that not alone is there great weight in the reasons which are given for the conclusions at which those three very learned gentlemen arrived, but I may add, that in this country, a Crown prosecution, under similar circumstances, would never have been thought of. In proof of this I may refer to the recent case of Strahan, Paul, and Bates, in which not the Crown but the injured individual prosecuted; and to the much older case of Lord Cochrane—which was a charge of a very grave description, although circumstances have since been brought to light tending considerably to relieve the character of his Lordship—in which the prosecution was instituted by the Committee of the Stock Exchange. Well, as I have previously said, that document reached me on the 24th of June. I read it carefully, and I did not agree in the opinion at which those learned persons arrived. I thought that there were reasons which had been overlooked, and that, having regard to the magnitude of the case, to its complication, and to the shock that had been given to public credit by it, it was a case in which the Crown ought to prosecute, and I did not hesitate, therefore, on my own responsibility, to overrule that opinion. Having, then, on the 24th of June considered the case with great care and labour, and having come to the conclusion which I have stated, I communicated with my right hon. Friend the Secretary for Ireland, who agreed with me in opinion. I did more. I waited on my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department; I stated what my views were, and I added that I was prepared to act on my own responsibilty; but I said that as I was overruling the opinion of two such high authorities as Mr. Brewster and the Solicitor General, it was only fair to them that I should have a conference with the Attorney General for England. I called on my hon. and learned Friend for that purpose, but the 26th of June was the first day on which my hon. and learned Friend could meet me. We met in conference and considered the case. 892 I explained my views fully to him, and he agreed with me. He said, "You are right. You have taken the true view of the case," and by post the same day I communicated to the Crown Solicitor, laying my mandate on him that there should be a Crown prosecution. I stated at the commencement of my observations that nothing in this case should rest upon my recollection only, and I have now before me a copy of my letter to the Crown Solicitor, written on the 27th of June, a portion of which I will read. It is as follows—Tipperary Joint-Stock Bank Winding-up.Irish Office, Whitehall, June 27, 1856.I thought it expedient to have a consultation with the Attorney General for England in relation to the course to be pursued by the Crown in this case. Sir Alexander Cockburn, Mr. Donohoe, and I met yesterday, and on a full consideration of all the circumstances brought under our notice by Mr. Donohoe, and reading the report of the judgment of the Master of the Rolls, and the minutes of consultation held in Dublin on Saturday and Monday last, we came to the conclusion that Mr. James Sadleir ought to be prosecuted for conspiracy, and that such prosecution should be instituted and conducted by the public prosecutor, that is, by the Attorney General. You must, therefore, at once proceed to make the requisite inquiries, and take the necessary steps to have Mr. James Sadleir amenable. The principal informant for that purpose should be Mr. William Kelly, late manager of the Tipperary Bank.I enclose a memorandum from Mr. Donohoe, giving a sketch of the heads to which Mr. Kelly's information should be directed.I think that it would be practicable to obtain a warrant against Mr. Sadleir, on the information of Mr. Kelly alone.I write now in haste.—Tours faithfully,J. D. FITZGERALD.The Crown Solicitor.On the 28th of June that letter was in the hands of Mr. Kemmis; but I have described Mr. Kemmis to you as an active officer—did he do nothing in the interval? [The right hon. and learned Gentleman, having read a journal of Mr. Kemmis's procceedings, which have been already detailed in the course of his speech, continued]—It was not until the morning of the 4th of July that Kelly was induced—and then it was effected by what I may call a sort of stratagem—to swear the first information. If there was delay I do not want to fix the responsibilty on any one. My object is simply to clear myself. My final directions were given on the 27th of June, but it was not until the 4th of July that any information of any kind could be procured. On the morning of that day a 893 warrant was issued against James Sadleir, and placed in the hands of the constabulary of the county where Mr. Sadleir was supposed to be, and a duplicate warrant was sent to this country. I myself was not idle in the mean time. Mr. Thomas Kemmis happened to come to London to see a son of his, who is at school here. I accidentally heard of it, and detained him here. By my directions he put himself into communication with the English shareholders. He spent ten days here engaged in the case, and he got it in such a position that, if James Sadleir were amenable to justice, he might be brought to trial at the next Tipperary Assizes; and he will be enabled to present a bill before the grand jury on Friday next, and to get it passed in order to lay the foundation for any future proceedings. He also put himself in communication with the detective police here, and a warrant was placed in their hands for the arrest of James Sadleir. Can any one say, therefore, for one moment that the justification which I have made, based entirely on documents, is not full, complete, and satisfactory? But there is more than this. The hon. Member for Mayo (Mr. G. H. Moore) asked me a few days ago, when James Sadleir ceased to be amenable to justice. I told him I did not know whether he had ceased to be amenable or not—at that time I was inclined to think he had not—but that if he had left the country it was not since the 17th or 18th of June. The reason why I said that was that his place of residence at Bray had been carefully watched by the police by my directions, and the report sent to me stated that he was still living at Quinn's hotel, at Bray, up to the 17th or 18th of June. Subsequent information, however, shows that this was a mistake—that his wife was living there, but he himself was not. I stated also, in answer to the same hon. Gentleman, that I could not exactly tell when the warrant was issued, but it was on or before the 4th of July. The reason of my uncertainty was that, having telegraphed to Dublin for a warrant to be sent over here, to be placed in the hands of the police, the answer which was returned did not state the day when the warrant had been issued. When Mr. Kemmis placed himself in communication with the police, they asked, "What are we to do with Mr. Sadleir if we find him?" "Arrest him." "But we have no warrant." Communication was then made to me, and I sent a tele- 894 graphic message to Dublin. The answer I got was "Information sworn, warrant issued, and sent down to Tipperary," but the date of issuing the warrant was not given. On the 9th of July I was not able to say whether James Sadleir had left the country or not, but very shortly after some information reached me on the subject. While in this House I received the following telegraphic message from the Crown Solicitor in Dublin—Private.—If reward is given for the apprehension of J. S., the party will come to Dublin and give information of his whereabouts. Answer by magnetic telegraph.I showed that message to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department and to the Secretary for Ireland, and with their approbation I sent the following answer—Go to Colonel Larcom at once. Offer such reward as he shall approve of. Be liberal.This, as is often the case, produced no result; but a liberal reward was offered by the Government, who are now charged by a Judge from the bench with having endeavoured to screen this gentleman, lest his capture should lead to disclosures which would be painful. The question remains, is James Sadleir amenable or not? I shall conceal nothing from the House on this point. On Friday last I received a letter from a gentleman, whose name I am not at liberty to mention, which, in connection with another document, gives a clue to the quarter where information can be got. I shall only read one passage from it—James Sadleir had not the slightest idea that he was in danger until he read, on the 4th of June, the remarks made by the Master of the Rolls on the 3rd. He came in that morning with the paper in his pocket from Bray, where he was residing; and he said, 'I must now stand my ground or cut.'I said on Friday night that the inference which I drew was, not that James Sadleir had fled, hut that if he had it was in consequence of the language of the Master of the Rolls, because I think there never was language used more calculated to alarm a criminal, and to show him what be must do. On my own responsibility I undertake to say that the statement made in the passage I have quoted can be proved. I have got a clue, not from the witness, and I undertake to say that before a Committee of this House a gentleman shall be produced who must prove this. James Sadleir was induced to remain in Ireland four 895 days after the 4th of June, and for what purpose? He remained at Kingstown up to the 8th of June, and his last act before he left was to swear an affidavit for the official manager and for the creditors in answer to the affidavits of the English shareholders charging him with fraud, and having sworn that affidavit he stepped on board the steamer, and I am not able to tell what has since become of him. What often happens in cases of this sort has happened to me. A gentleman, finding that I was unjustly assailed, and knowing that he had the means of showing it, like a man of honour, wrote this letter to me, which I received on Friday night last, just at the time when I was ineffectually urging the right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite to delay this discussion. I do not say that the Master of the Rolls intended James Sadleir to flee, but it is evident that it was his irregular and unwise observations which frightened him, and which showed him, for the first time, that he was in danger. This morning I received a letter from a firm in Lincoln's Inn, whom I do not know at all, hut who, I am informed, are of the highest respectability.
§ MR. MALINS
I know the gentlemen, and I can vouch for their high character and standing in the profession.
MR. J. D. FITZGERALD
In that letter, which they can only have written to me from a sense of justice, they inform me that the affidavit of the English shareholders, imputing fraud, did not leave England until the 7th or 8th of June; and what legal evidence, they ask, could the Master of the Rolls for Ireland have before him on that point on the 3rd of June? I have now gone through the facts of this case. I have been obliged to trouble the House at some length, but, under the circumstances in which I was placed, I was entitled, I conceive, to some indulgence at their hands. I appeal to right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite, and to the House generally, with the utmost confidence. Can any man say, after the statement which I have made, that the slightest imputation rests upon my character? I cannot conceive it possible that the Government, which I for some purposes represent, can be charged with the base and dishonourable design of endeavouring to screen a criminal from justice. I can only pledge my honour, as a Gentleman and as a Member of this House, that I know of no circumstance which could induce the Government to screen James 896 Sadleir from justice; and ten thousand times would I rather vacate my office than act at the behest of any Government which could dictate such a course to me. These charges are not only unfounded, but perfectly untrue. I may state, solely for my own gratification, that although I sat on the same side of this House with Mr. James Sadleir and his brother John, they were persons with whom I had no connection, and there was on their part, as many hon. Members are aware, not the most friendly feeling towards myself. I have now done with this case; but there is one matter to which I feel bound briefly to advert. I do not refer to it as intending to make a charge against the Master of the Rolls. I regret that I should in any way have been brought into collision with that right hon. and learned Judge. If any incautious expression of mine has led to that I sincerely regret it, because it is not becoming that I, standing in my position, should be in collision with a Judge. But I put it to the House—did I, when assailed by the hon. Member for Mayo (Mr. G. H. Moore), and by the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (Mr. Napier), upon the authority of the Master of the Rolls—did I exceed the bounds of the freedom of speech allowed in this House when I said that the Master of the Rolls' observations were irregular, and suggested another course which that learned Judge might consistently with his high character, his position, and his duty, have pursued? I apprehend that there is nothing in the constitution or in the rules of this House to prevent my commenting upon the conduct of a Judge if I should think fit. I believe that it is one of the privileges of the House to call in question the conduct of a Judge; but I did not do so. I used in a most temperate and moderate manner the freedom of speech which was due to my position as a Member of this House. I used expressions which ought not to have excited the animadversion of the Master of the Rolls, and which I must believe were in some way misrepresented to him. But, give me leave to express my regret, my sincere regret and my deep grief, that that learned Judge should have adopted the course which he has done. We are all interested in the maintenance of the dignity of Courts of Justice and of legal proceedings. For what are we all here? For what do Queen, Lords, and Commons, exist,—for what have we armies and navies, but to secure to us good laws, 897 well administered by good Judges? He who brings into contempt the administration of justice,—who in any way tries to cast obloquy upon it, inflicts a serious injury upon the State. I do assure the House that I from my soul lament that the Master of the Rolls should have been so forgetful of the dignity of his position, of what was due to himself, to the public, to the law which he has to administer, and to justice, which he represents, as to have adopted the unseemly course which he pursued on Friday last. Still more do I grieve and lament that the Bar of Ireland, whose privilege it was by their presence to restrain the interference of the Judge—no, I will not say the Bar of Ireland, but some members of it—that some members of that Bar, a Bar that I have so much respected, that I have always acted with and cherished, and the privileges of which I have, as far as I could, supported and advanced—that there were found some members of that Bar who polluted the sacred presence of justice by their ribald cheers. According to the statement made, "when the Master of the Rolls concluded, the audience testified their approbation by several rounds of applause." Information has reached me that some members of the Bar joined in those cheers. I have heard it with grief, I have heard it with feelings which I cannot express, and I only hope that the statement may prove to be unfounded. I have now done, and I indeed owe an apology to the House at the same time that I thank it for the indulgence with which it has heard me, and for its kindness in allowing me to clear away any imputation which there might be upon my conduct. My great anxiety has ever been to gain the good opinion of this House. I hope I have obtained and shall ever retain that good opinion; but I have an apology to offer, and it is to express my sincere regret that any expression of mine—if it were indiscreet I am sorry for it—should have brought about this unseemly controversy, and should have exposed the House to the infliction of this long explanation.
Sir, there is only one thing in regard to the statement of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland of which I have to complain, and that is, that having such an explanation of the whole course of his proceedings in this case, there should have been any attempt on his part to force upon me the responsibility and place me in the position of his accuser. I became con- 898 nected with the case while sitting here, and taking no part in the proceedings. I heard a question asked, and an answer given, and, according to my interpretation, of that answer, I the next day communicated with the Master of the Rolls in Ireland, who is, as I have already stated, my constituent and friend. I believe that I understood the answer accurately. I sent it truly, and I at the same time referred the Master of the Rolls to the newspaper reports. I said that I wanted to ascertain the real facts, of which I then knew no more than the general public. On the following Tuesday I got an answer from him, stating that the facts and documents to which he had adverted were included in his judgment; and he also stated—It is new to me that it is any part of the duty of a privy Councillor to inform the Government of facts notorious to all the world. Every person in Ireland was, I believe, aware of the frauds of the Tipperary Bank. The Attorney General and the Irish Government had equal opportunities of investigating the facts which I had, as every statement in my judgment is supported by some one or other of the affidavits, accounts, and documents referred to in my order, and filed or deposited in the Master's office, or in the hands of the official manager.On Wednesday, when I gave notice of my question, I was wholly unaware of any intended charge against the Attorney General. I myself never contemplated, I had no statement referring to any such charge, I gave my notice simply with regard to the question of the oath of a Privy Councillor; and it was not until Friday morning that I received the statement which has been referred to. I then had no authority to use it, except with respect to the question to the Attorney General for Ireland of which I had given notice. I think that had any Member of the Government asked me, early enough to give me time for consideration, to postpone that question, because it was mixed up with other matters, I should most likely have complied with the request; but the appeal was made to me just at the time that I was called upon by you, Mr. Speaker, and in the hurry of the House I had no alternative but to go on. Having no intention of accusing the Attorney General, having kept myself perfectly free from that part of the case, I put the question of which I had given notice, and I appeal to hon. Members whether in the statement with which I introduced it I made any charge whatever against the Attorney General for Ireland. On the contrary, I understood that I was blamed for not making such a charge. If 899 I had been asked to make it I should have replied that I was the most unfit person to do so, because it would probably be attributed to personal or party motives. I thought that I could put the question, keeping it separate from any charge, and I was much surprised when I saw that an attempt was made to force me into the position of an accuser. I declined to propose a Resolution, condemning the Attorney General, because, having held that office, I knew that it was his duty to state to the House the steps he took, the only question being whether those steps showed due diligence. I said last night that if he preferred an inquiry I would support it. He had the right to choose. He has made a statement, and I am bound to say with frankness that, having heard that statement, I have no charge to make against him. I can appeal to the right hon. and learned Gentleman whether, although his political opponent, I have ever, either out of doors or in this House, acted towards him except in a manner honourable to us both. [Mr. J. D. FITZGERALD: Hear, hear!] I would sit down at this moment, and content myself with what has been stated, if the imputations upon the Master of the Rolls had been entirely removed. But having undertaken to appear for him, and to take charge of his honour, character, and dignity before this House, I think that I should not be doing my duty to him if I did not ask the House to listen to what will be a brief, but I hope very satisfactory explanation. I do not intend to defend particular expessions which he may have used with regard to particular matters, and in which his zeal and love of justice may have caused him to forget himself, but I think that he has acted from an honest desire to get at the justice of the case, and of this I hope to satisfy the House. Sir, there is no man on the Irish Bench more zealous in the discharge of his duties, or who discharges them with greater ability—there is no man who is more desirous of dispensing justice in every case, than my right hon. and learned Friend the Master of the Rolls; and I think that, at all events, I shall be enabled to clear him of the imputations which have been cast upon him. It is manifest now but that for the Master of the Rolls these frauds never would have been completely unravelled. It is entirely owing to his diligence, assiduity, and searching scrutiny that they were brought to light. The investigation before the Master in Chancery was so imperfect that 900 it would have covered a charge of so serious a nature that the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck) is about to found upon it a Motion for the expulsion of the Member to whom it applies. For my own part, I deeply regret that that excellent and experienced officer, Mr. Kemmis, did not, on the 3rd of June, go to the Master of the Rolls, with whom he was well acquainted, and who would, I am confident, have given him every information which would have enabled him to follow up the case with effect. All the difficulties arose between the 3rd and the 20th of June. After the latter date the matter was diligently pursued. Had the information been obtained at the former period a warrant might have been issued, and probably at this moment James Sadleir would have been amenable to justice. Now, let hon. Members see the position of the Master of the Rolls. The case came before him, in the first instance, on the 3rd of March. It was not brought forward by a shareholder, but a motion was made on the part of the under-bailiff of James Sadleir to get the carriage of the proceedings under the Winding-up Act. The Master of the Rolls, having investigated the case, said that neither in his experience nor in the experience of any living being had such a gigantic fraud been perpetrated. From the statements before the Court it appeared that James Sadleir had concocted a balance-sheet, in which it was stated that the assets of the bank amounted to £612,000, knowing all the time that John Sadleir owed to the bank £258,000; and that he had transferred to the name of Austin Ferrall £50,000 of the supposed paid-up capital. The Master of the Rolls then referred to the case of certain fraudulent bankers in London, and said, "Nothing occurred in that case to be compared with the monstrous frauds in the present case." It is perfectly true that the Master of the Rolls did not, upon that occasion, intimate that there was any fraud which could be prosecuted as a crime; but what I understand him to have meant to say afterwards is, that if the documents which were in the possession of the official manager had been diligently and duly examined, the parties would have discovered from these documents, which were the only evidence, the means of carrying out a criminal prosecution. I understand from that, that if they had examined these documents they would have found the means of instituting a successful prosecution. When the case came before the Master of the Rolls it appeared 901 to him to have been imperfectly investigated in Master Murphy's office. He therefore collected together all the documents, and carefully examining them, found out this singular state of facts, that in 1855 James Sadleir had, in concert with his brother John, plotted and conspired by fraudulent devices to entrap the English shareholders, and that they had been guilty, at least, of the crime of conspiracy, which was afterwards established in the judgment that relieved the English shareholders from the liabilities of the bank. The plan by which they proceeded was by drawing up a report of the state of the bank at the end of the year 1854, which, from beginning to end, was one mass of falsehoods. James Sadleir having signed this report, they then fabricated a balance-sheet, which was kept in the hands of John Sadleir. By these arts they induced the English shareholders to purchase the unappropriated shares, which were represented as being old shares. They also allege that the bank had paid a dividend of 6 per cent on the paid-up capital, and backed up their wholesale falsehoods by a mass of forged names, forged certificates of transfer, fictitious entries, and fictitious registries. The case was, therefore, complete against James Sadleir, on the one side, for fabricating the report; and against John Sadleir, on the other, for fabricating the balance-sheet. They stated the paid-up capital at £100,000, when it was only £40,000, and the assets at double their real amount. Such was the gigantic system of fraud which came before my right hon. and learned Friend the Master of the Rolls; it engaged his closest attention for several days; it was the common talk of Dublin, and, indeed, of the whole country; and this learned Judge having, by his skill and assiduity, his zeal, his earnestness, and his intense love of justice, succeeded in bringing to light and in disentangling this complicated web of imposture and deception, might, in his natural indignation at the enormity and nefariousness of these transactions, have boiled over and severely animadverted on what he, undoubtedly, thought the remissness of the Executive in not taking speedier steps to bring the guilty parties to punishment. The Master of the Rolls saw that Master Murphy had been imposed upon by an imperfect investigation, and knowing the heartless way in which large numbers of unfortunate persons had been swindled and victimised, his surprise at so long a period elapsing before the clue he 902 had detected was followed up by the Crown prosecutors might, I conceive, be easily accounted for and excused. A Judge more free from political bias than the Master of the Rolls never sat on the bench; he is a pure, earnest, simple-minded man; and he naturally expected that some of those connected with the administration of the law in Dublin would have interposed in so heinous a case, the startling particulars of which were daily published to the world, and communicated the progress made in unravelling it to the Attorney General for Ireland long before the 6th of June. The Attorney General for Ireland admitted that, when the first application on the part of the Crown was made, on the 20th of June, to the Master of the Rolls, that learned Judge showed himself ready to afford every assistance in his power. As far as the evidence is concerned, what is the opinion of Mr. Gaussen? In a letter to the Crown Solicitor, dated June 11, he says—All the facts are set forth in the affidavits filed with the solicitor of the official manager, and the entries complained of as fraudulent are contained in the books lodged with me.And in another letter, dated the 13th of June, he adds—We send also the copy of one of another set of affidavits made by the appellants since the hearing; but we beg to suggest that the books of the bank, and documents which came to the hands of the official manager, furnish, we apprehend, stronger evidence than any affidavit which our clients could make on the subject.Looking, then, at the matter fairly, here is a Judge directing the whole powers of his mind to unravel these nefarious transactions, He delivers a judgment which must convince any lawyer that he has no superior in his ability to handle the law or to point out the mode in which criminal proceedings should be instituted; he feels that he, at least, has done his best to discharge an important public duty, and he sees no stir made by the officers of the Crown in a case which has startled and alarmed the country, and been the common talk of everybody. Seeing that he laid bare the whole of this mass of fraud, a little indulgence ought to be extended to him if, not knowing the circumstances which have been stated to the House tonight for the first time, he used expressions of some warmth. Hearing that in the Parliament of the United Kingdom he had been charged with having, either by his default as a Judge or by a failure in his duty as a privy Councillor, been the 903 means of allowing a man to escape from the country who was amenable to justice, the Master of the Rolls in Ireland, having been the very person who first brought to the light of day the materials for the detection and prosecution of the offender, might well feel sore at so unjust and unlooked-for an accusation. I hope the House has now get rid of this painful personal matter. After the explanations given by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland, it would be uncandid and unfair in me to impute anything improper to him. Since the right hon. and learned Gentleman obtained the information to which he referred—viz., on the 6th of June—he appears to have exercised due diligence, and to have availed himself of professional assistance of the highest character in Ireland. [Mr. HORSMAN here made a remark which was inaudible in the gallery.] I hope the Chief Secretary for Ireland does not suppose that, in making this admission, I do so with any reserve, or any desire to keep behind any insinuation against the Attorney General for Ireland. The observations of the Master of the Rolls may have been elicited in consequence of communications which he received from me—I dare say they were. All I can say is, that I intended only to convey to him what I and several other Members of this House supposed, and still believe, to have been the statements made by the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland. I have only further to add, that I trust the House, while on the one hand it may conceive that expressions were used by the Master of the Rolls, which after the explanations given to-night are to be regretted, will yet believe that this able, impartial, and indefatigable Judge has rendered invaluable service to the public by his detection and exposure of these wholesale frauds, and has been actuated by no other motive than an earnest anxiety to see justice done.
§ Subject dropped.
§ House, at its rising, to adjourn till Thursday.