§ MR. HUNT
said, he rose to ask Mr. Attorney General, Whether he will state at whose instance, and upon what ground, he has struck out of the List of Persons unanimously recommended by the Town Council of Northampton to fill the vacancies in the number of Charity Trustees for that borough the names of four gentlemen professing Conservative opinions, and has substituted others in lieu of them; and whether he will undertake to restore the original names to the List to be submitted to the Lord Chancellor? He begged leave to shortly state the circumstances of the case to the House. There were two public boards in Northampton—the one connected with the Church charities and the other with the general charities, the latter being by far the most important. It was obvious that such charities ought to be administered without the slightest suspicion of party influence, and the boards had been so constituted as to prevent any such suspicion arising. Ten years ago, when the Liberal party had the predominance in the town council, they themselves assented to the principle upon which it was determined that the office of trustees should be filled up—namely, in such a way as to leave the two parties equal, there being on the Church charities board a majority of one Conservative, and on the more important general charity majority of one Liberal. Such equality was particularly desirable in Northampton, where, as he could testify, party spirit ran so high; and in 1859, when the first re appointment of trustees took place, the Conservatives, if they had felt desirous to depart from the original principle laid down with respect to the appointment of the trustees, would have had a most favourable opportunity of doing so, seeing that there was a Conservative Government in power at the time, and that the Conservatives had then a majority in the town council. They, however, did nothing of the kind, but left matters precisely as they were 1838 before, with a majority of one in the general charity board against them. A second appointment of new trustees had recently been rendered necessary as well by the removal of some of the most influential of the trustees of the two boards from the neighbourhood as from the death of others. A committee was therefore appointed to draw out a list of names for the appointment, and it was arranged that the Conservative vacancies should be filled by Conservatives, and Liberal vacancies by Liberals. No objection was made to the. Conservative list, but there were some substitutions in the Liberal list made by themselves. When, however, the list was sent back from the Attorney General's office, it was found that the resignation of the Conservative non-residents was accepted, and their places filled up by Liberals, whereas that of the Liberal non-residents was not accepted, but their names were retained on the list, the effect of which was to give to the liberals a majority of eleven on the Church charities board, and a majority of fourteen against seven on the general board. Such a proceeding had of course led to no little indignation, particularly as it was understood that the chiefs of the two parties in the borough concurred in the recommendation of the committee of the town council. He quite acquitted both the hon. Members from any participation in such an extraordinary proceeding. There was great curiosity in the town as to what secret influence had been brought to bear on the Attorney General in this matter.
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
said, he was not in a position to follow the hon. Gentleman into the account he had given of the polities of the town, which appeared to have been unfortunately mixed up with the question. He did not admit that a law officer who had to discharge the duty of appointing new trustees to a charity ought to be dictated to by any party. It was his duty to obtain the best information in his power, and then to nominate, regardless of politics, the party appearing to be best qualified to discharge the duties of the office. The question here appeared to belong to the general charity.
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
said, he was not aware that any objection had been made to the Church list; nor was he aware, till he saw the question on the paper, that 1839 there was any objection to the general list. The trustees of the general charity were twenty-one in number, reduced by death and other circumstances to fourteen. Under those circumstances two lists were sent into himself as Attorney General to be submitted to the Court of Chancery—one a joint list prepared by the surviving trustees and the town council, and the other a list framed by the town council alone. Both these lists contained nine names, but there were only seven vacancies to fill up. He took the list submitted by the town council; and as that list was in excess by two, that number was struck off. He (the Attorney General) adopted five of the remaining names; and that left two to be supplied. The name of the Rev. Mr. Gedge, the incumbent of All Saints, whose predecessor had been one of the trustees, having been mentioned to him, he thought he was a fit person to appoint, and the other name he selected from the original joint list sent in by the town council and surviving trustees. The duty of the Attorney General was merely to submit the names to the Judge in Equity, who appointed; it being open to the town council or surviving trustees to appeal to him against any of the names submitted, and to take his opinion upon them. As to any one having been at his ear, or his having acted from any improper motives, all he would say was that, acting in a judicial capacity, he had obtained the best information that he could get, and had formed his opinion upon it.
§ MAJOR EDWARDS
said, that it was to he regretted that the selection made by the Attorney General had destroyed that equality which had hitherto pretty generally been maintained, and his selections of Liberals only, instead of taking Liberals and Conservatives fairly, had occasioned very great dissatisfaction in Northampton.