§ MR. HUNT
Sir, in rising to move the Resolution of which I have given notice, I cannot disguise from myself the grave nature of the task I have undertaken. That Resolution is, in fact, a vote of censure upon one of the highest functionaries of State—upon that functionary who is called the Keeper of the Queen's Conscience, the Supreme Judge of the Court of Chancery, one who acts in a twofold capacity in the House of Lords—as the supreme Judge of the highest court of judicature in the kingdom, and the Speaker of that august Assembly in its deliberations upon public affairs. To direct a vote of censure upon so high a functionary is, I say, a grave matter, and I have not undertaken to do so without duly considering the responsibility I thus incur. If I have undertaken this task lightly, frivolously, or upon insufficient grounds, the censure will recoil upon my own head. On the other hand, if I can show that there are real and substantial grounds for proposing this Resolution, then, I think, I shall only have discharged my duty to the country.
Now, Sir, it is obviously of the highest importance, not only that there should be purity in the exercise of the high functions of the Lord Chancellor, but vigilance against corruption by his subordinates. It is of high importance, because of the enormous amount of patronage which has accumulated in his hands. He holds the appointment of nearly every Judge who sits upon the bench in this country —the Judges of the land, of the County Court Judges, the Judges in Bankruptcy, and a multitude of subordinate officers in those Courts, and these appointments tell upon the interests of nearly all the people of this country. Therefore, I say it is most important that the person who discharges the high duties which attach to the office of Lord Chancellor should not only be himself incorrupt, but should he vigilant in the public interest to prevent corruption among those about him. I am happy to say that on this occasion I am not here to impute personal corruption to the Lord Chancellor; but I am here to impute to him that he has not shown that vigilance, that acuteness, and that anxiety for the public interest which his high station and the important duties attached to it imperatively demand. I think I need hardly apologize for bringing under review 1046 the conduct of the Lord Chancellor, because it must be admitted that a primâ facie case for that course exists when in one Session of Parliament a Committee of each House has sat to inquire into the purity of his conduct. I bring the question of the two cases before the House on the present occasion. We must remember that the Committee of either House had referred to it only the inquiry into the particular case which was under its investigation; but we have now the advantage of being able to compare the evidence given before the two Committees, and what might seem a slight affair when we had only the evidence adduced before one Committee becomes a grave matter when we read the Report of the other Committee and the evidence given before it. We cannot go entirely by the Report of the Lords' Committee, or by that of the Commons' Committee, because each had only one particular case referred to it; but we must see what has been the conduct of the Lord Chancellor as shown by the evidence in both cases, and we must ask, whether that conduct has been such as to satisfy the country, and to show that he ought to be continued in his high office? or, whether, on the other hand, it does not demonstrate his unfitness for that office —not, as I have already said, on the ground that he is guilty of personal corruption—but because of his supiness and carelessness in not preventing the corruption which was going on around and below him?
Sir, the Motion of which I have given notice contains three propositions—first, that the evidence taken before the Committee on the Leeds Bankruptcy Court discloses that a great facility exists for obtaining public appointments by corrupt means; second, that such evidence and also that taken before the House of Lords, in the case of Leonard Edmunds, show a laxity of practice and want of caution on the part of the Lord Chancellor in sanctioning the grant of retiring pensions to public officers over whose head grave charges are impending, and in filling up the vacancies made by the retirement of such officers, whereby great encouragement has been given to corrupt practices. The third proposition in my Motion is the corollary of the two preceding—namely, that such laxity and want of caution, even in the absence of any improper motive, are, in the opinion of this House, highly reprehensible and calculated to throw discredit on the administration of the high 1047 offices of State. I propose to follow up these three propositions in the order which they occupy on the paper. First, with respect to the facility which exists for obtaining public employment, I wish the House to notice that Mr. Welch, a gentle-on the Northern Circuit, being desirous to obtain a public appointment, lays out his money in what he considers a judicious manner for that purpose, and he finds Mr. Richard Bethell, the Chancellor's son, willing to receive a sum of money, and to give Mr. Welch his good offices and mention his name to his father. In due course of time Mr. Welch received an appointment from the Lord Chancellor under circumstances which I may describe as at least very peculiar. I should like to call the attention of the House to the evidence of Mr. Welch, showing that the motive which induced him to give a sum of money to Mr. Richard Bethell was to obtain the latter's interest with the Lord Chancellor. The following evidence was given by Mr. Welch in answer to questions put by the hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Bovill), who was appointed a Member of the Committee for the purpose of examining witnesses, but not of voting:—When was it that you first applied to him? —I should think I asked Mr. Bethell in 1862 or 1863: I forget which. Did you apply to him again in 1864?—I did. What time in 1864?— When I was ill he used sometimes to come and ask how I was; that was in January and February. When I found myself getting better, or shortly after that, I mentioned it to him; I said I should be glad if he could exercise any influence, if he would be kind enough to do it. What did he say?—He said he was not then as he used to be, in office—that is, near his father; but he certainly would if he could, if he had an opportunity. And I may mention to you that I have often assisted Mr. Bethell, and others, too, in-eluding Members of your honourable House, frequently.In answer to a question from the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. E. Egerton) who asked whether the assistance was pecuniary assistance? the witness replied—Yes, as friends; and one noble Lord now owes me £8,000 and odd. We settled accounts some time ago; he is a connection of Lord Palmerston. I asked him to help me, and I believe he would do it for me if he could.I am happy to say, for the sake of the noble Lord, that it does not appear that the person was able to perform the service desired. Mr. Welch went on to say—I have assisted many friends from time to time, perhaps incautiously, it may be foolishly; and, among the rest, I have assisted Members of the House of Commons; two, I know I have assisted, and I have lost nothing by them.1048 [A laugh.] This may be considered a laughing matter by some hon. Members, but I think the country will regard it as a serious matter. In days gone by such things may have been heard of, but I was only aware, by the disclosure before this Committee, that such things were possible now. Mr. Welch seems to have considered that if he found a needy man, who knew a Minister having appointments to give away, and lent him money, the money was well laid out. Was Mr. Welch wrong? With respect to the money he lent Mr. Richard Bethell, he says—Mr. Richard Bethell owes me £1,050. He owes me that now; in the first instance it was £500 that I lent him. Mr. Bovill: Now, will you tell me when he had. £500 from you?—I tell you in April or May. Colonel Pennant: In April or May of what year?—Of 1864. Mr. Bovill: Will you be good enough to explain how it was that he had £500 from you in April or May, 1864?—He asked me to lend it to him, and I thought at that time, as he was in no difficulties, that he was a very good object; I thought he was a very good mark, and I further thought that it was very likely if I wanted a compliment, and asked him for it, he might exert himself, as well as others, to assist me. Mr. Vivian: What do you mean by a 'compliment?'—If I wanted any assistance with parties in power. Colonel Pennant: What do you mean by saying that' he was a very good mark?'—I thought he was ample security for £500 at that time.The examination was afterwards thus continued—What induced you to lend Mr. Bethell, for the first time, £500?—I thought that he, as other people to whom I had lent money, might exert himself for me if I wanted him to assist me in obtaining an appointment or anything like that. I knew very well he had no appointment himself to give; all he could do was to use influence.Well, was Mr. Welch wrong in his calculation? In 1863, he had received Mr. Richard Bethell's recommendation to his father, and in April, 1864, Mr. Richard Bethell was in communication with the Lord Chancellor about the Leeds Bankruptcy Court. It appears from a letter read by Mr. Miller, and which the Committee, I am sorry to find, did not require should be delivered up to them, Mr. Welch applied a second time to Mr. Bethell. Now, I want to know whether at that time Mr. Bethell was in communication with the Lord Chancellor? If we turn to Mr. Bethell's evidence we find it in the following statement:—The Lord Chancellor knew that both myself and my wife were exceedingly intimate with Mr. Baron and Lady Mary Wilde; and one day, in his private room, the Lord Chancellor told me that 1049 he was grieved to hear that very serious charges were being made against Mr. Wilde, and he felt that unless Mr. Wilde was able to give a satisfactory answer to those charges he should be compelled to dismiss him. He asked the Lord Chancellor, as a favour, to let him know what the charges were at that time. What he told me was that Mr. Wilde confessed he had borrowed some money from some of the officials of the Court, and that there were some charges about his having unduly passed some official assignees' accounts to whom he was in debt. In about a fortnight after that time my own misfortune came upon me; and I never saw the Lord Chancellor subsequently to that period.That fixed the time when Mr. Richard Bethell was in intimate communication with the Lord Chancellor; for you will find that what Mr. Richard Bethell called "his own trouble" was his having to resign his own office in London as Registrar in Bankruptcy; and it appears that, on the 14th of May, the Lord Chancellor wrote to Mr. Miller, stating that it was absolutely necessary that his son should resign. But how was the arrangement with Mr. Welch affected? There is a good deal of discrepancy in the evidence upon the subject. Mr. Welch himself says, he sent a cheque direct to Mr. Bethell; but the Rev. Mr. Harding says, that he was the go-between, that the cheque was handed to him, and that he conveyed it to Mr. Bethell. However that may be, it is clear upon the evidence that a cheque of £500 was given in favour of the hon. Richard Bethell, as expressed on the cheque in exchange for a Bill. The Rev. Mr. Harding, in his evidence, says—I carried the £500—worse luck!" And he continues as follows:—" I mentioned the arrangement to Mr. Welch, certainly, for this reason, that it was important as regards the understanding that if Mr. Welch got the situation the bill should be destroyed. Decidedly I mentioned it, for I thought it was in Mr. Richard Bethell's favour that it should be understood that the bill should be destroyed.That is to say, that the bill was to be destroyed, if Mr. Welch got the appointment. Well, let us follow up the story. Mr. Welch got the appointment. There has been great mystery as to what became of that bill; but at last Mr. Welch was driven to admit that it was destroyed without any security being given by Mr. Bethell for the £500. Mr. Bethell had subsequent advances from Mr. Welch of a considerable sum of money. I can give the House the dates. The first cheque of £500 was dated the 6th of May; but that was not the real day, because the cheque appears to have been post-dated. I wish 1050 to call the particular attention of the House to these dates in connection with what came out in the Committee of the House of Lords in regard to Mr. Edmunds' case. In August, 1864, a correspondence took place between the Lord Chancellor and other Law Lords about Mr. Edmunds' defalcations, and during that month it became perfectly clear—as from a perusal of the correspondence it will be seen that it must have been perfectly clear—to all who were cognizant of these transactions that Mr. Edmunds would be obliged to resign his offices. On September 10th, after this, the House will perceive that Mr. Welch lends Mr. Bethell another £200. Well, things go on in the Patent Office and in the other House of Parliament, and on the 4th of February it appears that Mr. Leonard Edmunds signed a memorandum promising to resign. Three days after this, I suppose, Mr. Bethell got a hint of this, and informed Mr. Welch of it, for three days after it Mr. Welch finds himself in a position to lend Mr. Bethell another £50. On the 14th of February the Lord Chancellor presents a petition from Mr. Edmunds for a retiring pension, which is granted. On the 15th of February Mr. Slingsby Bethell is appointed Reading Clerk of the House of Lords, and on the 20th he take3 his seat in that capacity. By so taking his seat he vacated the office of a Registrar in Bankruptcy in London, and thus the office of Registrar of Bankruptcy in London became an appointment at the disposal of the Lord Chancellor. Mr. Welch thinks £300 will be well laid out, and he gives it to Mr. Richard Bethell. On the 15th of February, the day on which Mr. Slingsby Bethell vacates the office of Registrar, Mr. Welch advances another £300 to Mr. Richard Bethell. There is a letter from Mr. Richard Bethell to Mr. Welch, given in Appendix No. 3 of the Blue-book. The bill for the £500 had been destroyed, it appears, when this letter of acknowledgment was sent to Mr. Welch, but there is a great mystery as to when that letter was sent. There is no date attached to that letter, but it would seem to have been written some considerable time after the £500 and the subsequent advances had been obtained. It is as follows:—My dear Welch,—I have not replied to your former letters because I am really annoyed at your troubling me in the way you do. Nobody knows better than you do my present circumstances, how impossible for me it is to make any 1051 repayments, as I do not know from one day to an- other what course my creditors may take. I am sorry that the opposition to the Bill is such a costly affair, but I cannot assist you; there can be no possible dispute between us as to the amount of liability; but, to relieve your mind (which is much more punctilious than it used to be), I owe you £1,050 money advanced, and some day or other I will either pay it, or, at all events, give you some sort of security; but, at present, I do expect you not to bother me. I assure you I am harassed to death.Now, it is a remarkable thing that, while the capital sum of £1,050 is here stated, there is no mention whatever made as to any sum being due in respect of interest. I think there are good grounds for supposing that that letter was written with a view to enable something to be produced if there should be a trial, but the writer forgot altogether to mention the subject of interest; and if this had been a bonâ fide debt due from Mr. Richard Bethell to Mr. Welch, the letter of acknowledgment must have contained some reference to sums due for interest. Well, Sir, we have got to this, that at the end of April or the beginning of May, 1864, £500 is advanced by Mr. Welch to Mr. Bethell, for a purpose which Mr. Welch admitted. On July 26 comes up the question of Mr. Wilde's retirement from the Bankruptcy Court at Leeds. The Committee have given an account of how these circumstances arose. They say—In the beginning of 1864, in the course of a general examination which had been instituted as to the Court of Bankruptcy by the Lord Chancellor, an inquiry took place into the alleged misconduct of some of the officers of the Leeds District Court—namely, the two Registrars, Mr. Payne and Mr. Wilde, two official assignees, and two messengers.Charges were brought against Mr. Payne and Mr. Wilde, and a letter was sent to Mr. Wilde by Mr. Miller, the Chief Registrar of the Court of Bankruptcy. I will not read the whole of the letter, but it said that the charges against Mr. Wilde were—1. That accounts which ought to have been submitted to and allowed by your Commissioner were certified by you as having been submitted to and sanctioned by him, without his having ever seen such accounts; and that thereby large sums had been improperly allowed to the official assignees; 2. That you have been in the habit of taxing the bills of the messengers, without calling for the production of the vouchers for the sums alleged to have been paid by them; and, 3. That you have borrowed money both from the official assignees and messengers of the Court, and thereby destroyed your independence and efficiency.It seems that no explanation in reply to 1052 these charges was given for some time; and, on the 24th of May, Mr. Miller wrote to Mr. Wilde as follows:—Court of Bankruptcy, May 24, 1864.Dear Sir,—I am directed by the Lord Chancellor to request that you will, within one week from this day, put Mr. Commissioner Ayrton in possession of the explanation called for by my letter of the 16th instant, otherwise you will be served with notice to appear and show cause in open court why you should not be dismissed from your office of registrar.—Yours, &c,(Signed)"JOHN F. MILLER.H. S. Wilde, Esq.On the 30th of May, in answer to Mr. Miller's letter, Mr. Wilde sent a communication to the Lord Chancellor, who sent it, according to his custom, to Mr. Miller. On the 26th of July, 1864, there is a letter which has been considerably discussed, both in the Committee and by the public, from Mr, Miller, the Chief Registrar in London, to Mr. Wilde. It is couched in these extraordinary terms—Court of Bankruptcy, July 26, 1864.Sir,—It grieves mo much to inform you that, unless I hear, in course of post, that you mean to apply to be allowed to retire, I have instructions from the Lord Chancellor to serve you with notice to appear before him publicly in open court, and show cause why you should not be dismissed from your office of Registrar.Before I go on further with this letter I would refer to the words "retire," "allowed to retire," because it came out in the evidence of Mr. Wilde that the word "retire," in the Bankruptcy Court means retiring on a pension, but that the word "resign" means resigning unconditionally; and therefore Mr. Miller, in the first part of his letter, says that Mr. Wilde must apply to be allowed to retire—that is, upon a pension, or else appear in open court and show cause why he should not be dismissed from his office. Then comes the second part of his letter. Mr. Miller states that the first paragraph was written in strict obedience to the orders of the Lord Chancellor, and the Lord Chancellor doubts whether he used the word "retire" or "resign." The second paragraph of Mr. Miller's letter, the Lord Chancellor says, was not written by his direction; and Mr. Miller does not impute it to his Lordship, but asserts that it was dictated by his own kindness of feeling towards Mr. Wilde. This is its language —It is said that your state of health is such that you can have no difficulty in obtaining such a medical certificate as would entitle you to retire under the 33rd section of the Bankruptcy Act, 1861; and, if this be so, I sincerely trust, for your own sake, that you will see the propriety of re- 1053 lieving the Chancellor from the very disagreeable and, indeed, painful duty which is thrust upon him.Here, then, is the letter from the Chief Registrar in Bankruptcy, the official Secretary to the Lord Chancellor, calling upon a man to appear in open court to show cause why he should not be dismissed from the office of Registrar, and suggesting in the next paragraph that he should apply for a medical certificate and retire on the ground of his health. I think the natural construction of that letter is, that the interests of the public were not so much sought after by the writer as the creation of a vacancy in the office. I should like to call the attention of the House to the view that was taken of the letter when it was received at Leeds. It appears that when it reached Mr. Wilde he was exceedingly alarmed, and went and consulted a friend of his, Mr. Bond, who was called before the Committee. Mr. Bond states—Mr. Wilde showed me a letter from Mr Miller, dated the day next but one before, if I recollect right, the 26th of July, and I read it at his request; he said it had frightened him a good deal, or that it had 'put him a good deal out of the way,' I think was his expression. He asked me to give him my opinion about it. I hesitated a moment, as it came upon mo unawares, and I told him I thought the better way would be for him to go to London and consult his relative, Sir James Wilde. I think I said, 'I do not think you have much to consult him about, it seems to me it is a foregone conclusion. They do not mean to give you an alternative—they want your place —perhaps you will be better off with your pension, if they will give it you,' or something of that sort. I did not think that I should be asked about this, therefore I am speaking from the merest recollection. I then, I think, asked him, having looked at the letter again, or the latter part of it, 'Well, have you had any medical advice?' 'Have you had any occasion for medical advice?' or something of that sort; and, he said 'Yes' And he added that Mr. Hey had attended him for some affection, I am not quite sure whether of the eye or eyes, but something affecting his vision; he said rather abruptly,' Do you know him? I 'said' Yes, he lives opposite,' pointing out of the window; he said,' It has upset me,' or something of that sort,' will you go across and see him, and see whether he can give me a certificate?' I did go, and I got the certificate which is in the Return. Mr. Hey made some observation, I think to the effect, 'That is as much is I can do for you,' and I jocularly said in answer, 'I daresay it will do; half a certificate will be enough on this occasion.' I might be wrong; I drew my conclusions in a moment, because I had not the least doubt what was meant; it was all done in a few minutes, because Mr. Wilde had to go, I think, by the 10 o'clock train to London.Well now, Sir, a more extraordinary certificate I should think never was submitted 1054 to a public functionary in order to procure a retiring pension. It is dated "Leeds, July 28, 1864," and is in these words—I hereby certify that I have been consulted by Mr. Henry S. Wilde, on account of a failure in his sight, which was a serious hindrance to him in the performance of the duties of his office." It does not say, "which I consider is a serious hindrance to him." "Mr. Wilde first consulted me in August, 1863. At his age I cannot look for any improvement in his vision, (Signed) Samuel Hey, F.R.C.S.It was necessary, I do not know whether by the provisions of the Act of Parliament or by the rules framed by the Lord Chancellor, that the gentleman seeking a retiring pension had to send a petition and make an affidavit as to the facts stated in his petition. And here comes a curious disclosure. It became a question before the Committee by whom and when the petition and affidavit were prepared. Mr. Wilde's account is this—that they came to him cut and dry. He says—The note is this—' I have your note and medical certificate, and if you will sign the enclosed petition, and swear to it before any Commissioner for taking affidavits, and send it to my house, 26, St. Stephen's Square, this evening, I will endeavour to get the Lord Chancellor to make the order to-morrow morning;' is that the letter which accompanied the petition?— That was the letter that accompanied the petition. Up to the time of receiving that letter, had you seen Mr. Miller at all upon the subject of this letter of his of the 2Cth of July, which called upon you to retire?— No; I saw Mr. Miller on the 30th, and I went to him in order, as far as I could be enabled to do so, to get an explanation, and I said to him, *Mr. Miller, to what am I to attribute this unprecedented severity at the hands of the Lord Chancellor?' He said to me, 'It is on account of your carelessly taxing the messengers' bills.' When you received the petition, was it in the form or not in which you signed it? You will find it set out in pages 26 and 27.—Yes; it was in the form set out; it was engrossed. It came to you ready for signature?—Yes. Had you anything to do with putting in the grounds upon which you were desirous of retiring, as stated in that petition?— No. Now, as regards the affidavit: Who prepared that affidavit, do you know?—That was prepared also in the office of the Chief Registrar, Mr. Miller. And was sent to you with the petition ready engrossed?—Yes, ready engrossed.So that, to make it perfectly certain that this petition should be presented, the Chief Registrar Bankruptcy, Mr. Miller, actually prepare the petition setting forth the grounds on which he was to receive the pension, together with the affidavit' which he was to swear to. Mr. Miller appeared to think this was rather an extraordinary proceeding, and was not likely to do him any credit, and in his first account he positively denied that the fact was so— 1055Had you anything to do with the preparation of the affidavit?—Nothing whatever. And nothing to do with the petition, except sending a form?—I do not say that I sent a form: it is very possible that I may have sent a form. If I was asked for a form I sent it. But you certainly had nothing to do with the preparation of the affidavit?—Certainly not; the affidavit, you know, is a mere few words, it is merely three lines.Now, if you will turn to 286, you will find Mr. Miller states it thus—Did you prepare the petition or not?—Having seen this, I have no doubt of it. That you prepared it?—No doubt; I have the petition here, I think. Will you look at it?—Yes, I have referred to it; here is the petition (producing a paper). It seems to have been prepared in blank, leaving a blank for the important portion of it, 'That your petitioner has for some time past been afflicted with a failure in his sight, and that the same has now become so serious that he is no longer able satisfactorily to perform the duties of his office; all that has been manifestly left in blank, and filled in from the information of some of those gentlemen, or from written information. Did you prepare the petition or not?—Having seen this note, I have no doubt that it was prepared in my office. Did you prepare it yourself? —It is very possible; very likely I did. Having seen that letter, have you any doubt that you did? —I have no hesitation whatever in saying that I think it exceedingly probable that this was done by me.Here is another curious thing. Mr. Miller's letter and the certificate are dated the 28th of July—But your letter is dated the 28th of July, and the certificate is dated Leeds, July 28?—Yes. You, writing from London on the 28th, say that you have received the medical certificate, and yet the medical certificate is dated 'Leeds' the same day?— That seems odd; it is very incomprehensible,I think the House will agree with me that there has been a great deal of hocus pocus about this certificate; and the result in my mind is this, that, though Mr. Miller is not proved to have been corrupted by either Mr. Richard Bethell or by Mr. Welch, he was a party to the conspiracy to get Mr. Wilde out of the office then. I do not say there was a conspiracy to get Mr. Wilde out of the office originally, because I think that the Lord Chancellor was right in calling on him to show cause in open court why he should not be dismissed from the office of registrar; but I say that Mr. Miller was a party to the conspiracy to get Mr. Wilde out of the office at this particular time; and I think that the evidence I have read sustains that view.
Then we come to that part of the case which more immediately affects the Lord Chancellor. In order that Mr. Wilde should obtain a retiring pension it was necessary 1056 that the Lord Chancellor should sign an order to that effect. There is contradictory testimony as between the Lord Chancellor and Mr. Miller on this point. I have read the certificate to the House, and I think the House will agree that it is one which Mr. Bond was justified in calling only half a certificate. Mr. Miller was asked, whether he submitted it to the Lord Chancellor—Will you be kind enough to tell us what passed between you and the Lord Chancellor upon the subject?—I have already told you what passed. I pointed out to the Lord Chancellor what occurred to mo on the certificate. I told him I was dissatisfied with the medical certificate, but his Lordship, on reading the petition and the affidavit and the medical certificate, thought that, coupling them together, there was sufficient to justify him in making the order.Now, what does the Lord Chancellor himself say upon the point?—Mr. Miller has told us (I cannot find the particular answer at this moment) that he considered the certificate unsatisfactory. And then, at question 317, he is asked this question, You told us just now that you considered the medical certificate unsatisfactory?—I did. Considering the medical certificate unsatisfactory, did you prepare a petition which the Lord Chancellor was to act upon, and send it to Mr. Wilde without any communication with the Lord Chancellor?—I dealt with the matter before me, and I guarded myself in this way, that when I presented the certificate, the affidavit, and the petition to the Lord Chancellor, I pointed out the objections I saw?'—I have no recollection of any such thing. The petition, affidavit, and certificate were presented to me, and I ought in strictness to have read them all; I do not think that I did. I probably looked at the petition and saw the allegation, and I may have assumed that the medical certificate was in conformity with it; I certainly could never have read the medical certificate, or I should not have allowed it to have passed upon that certificate.Then, the next question is very much to the same effect, and the answer is this—I have no recollection of that. It is very difficult for me to take upon myself to say that that is incorrect, seeing the number of things that pass through my mind; but my strong impression is that I had no observation made to me about the certificate, because I never could have approved the certificate if I had seen it and weighed it deliberately.Now, I believe that the Lord Chancellor's version is the correct one, and not Mr. Miller's. I believe it is utterly impossible that the attention of the Lord Chancellor could have been called to that certificate before he made the order for the retiring pension. But what I want to know is, why did not the Lord Chancellor read the certificate and the affidavit? If this were an ordinary case of a man applying for a retiring pension after a number of years' 1057 service, we could easily understand that in the pressure of business, from the number of matters which must come before the Lord Chancellor every day and at all hours of the day, he might have neglected his duty and his conduct be excused. But here was a man whom he had directed his Registrar to call before him and show cause in open court why he should not be dismissed from his office. The letter calling upon him to resign was dated July 26; and on the 30th—only four days later— he signed the order for his pension without, by his own confession, having read the affidavit. Now, Sir, I ask the House am I too severe in my language when I say there was "laxity of practice" on the part of the Lord Chancellor in this matter? I want to know, why was Mr. Wilde 10 be dismissed? The charges against him were—That accounts which ought to have been submitted to and allowed by the Commissioner, were certified as having been submitted to and sanctioned by him, without his having ever seen such accounts; and that thereby large sums had been improperly allowed to the official assignees. That he had been in the habit of taxing the bills of the messengers, without calling for the production of the vouchers for the sums alleged to have been paid by them.What does the Lord Chancellor do? This is the order signed by the Lord Chancellor—Whereas, the above-named Henry Sedgwick Wilde hath preferred his petition to me, stating, that he had for some time past been afflicted with a failure in his sight, and that the same had become so serious that he is no longer able satisfactorily to perform the duties of his office, and praying that he may be permitted to retire, and that I should be pleased to award him such an annuity aforesaid. Now, upon reading the said petition and the affidavit made in support thereof, and the medical certificate therein referred to, and by virtue of the 33rd section of the Bankruptcy Act, 1861, &c, I do order that henceforth an annuity of £666 13s. 4d., being a sum not exceeding two-thirds of his said salary, be paid to the said Henry Sedgwick Wilde for the term of his life out of the said Chief Registrar's account.That order is signed by the Lord Chancellor. Now, I ask the House, if Mr. Wilde, a subordinate officer of the Court of Chancery, is to be dismissed from his office because he certified accounts as having been submitted to the Commissioner which had not been submitted to him, or seen by him, whereby large sums of money had been improperly allowed to the official assignees? What is to be done to the Lord Chancellor, who says that he Has read the certificates and made an order whereby a large sum of money is chargeable to the 1058 public, when, in point of fact, he had not read the certificates and the whole preamble of the order, as far as his own personal acts are concerned, is untrue? Are we to mete out a different measure of justice to Mr. Wilde, the Registrar of the Leeds Bankruptcy Court, and to the Lord High Chancellor of England? Would that be satisfactory to the House or to the public? I said there was a determination on the part of Mr. Miller to get Mr. Wilde out at that particular time, and he did get him out. Upon the same day that Mr. Wilde walked out at one door Mr. Welch entered at another. Now, under the peculiar circumstances, was there not haste and want of caution? The Lord Chancellor says that Mr. Miller told him it was important to appoint another registrar immediately. Had he no reason for supposing that Mr. Miller was acting in the interest of his son? On the 15th of May, after the Lord Chancellor had determined that his son should be removed, who is it who interferes and begs for delay? Mr. Miller. Who is it that addresses repeated remonstrances, that makes long written statements, that makes personal intercession for re-consideration of that determination? Is it not Mr. Miller? To a person of ordinary intelligence, knowing that Mr. Miller had been in his son's interest, the very fact of Mr. Miller recommending haste in the filling up of this appointment should have raised suspicion. Well, who was Mr. Welch, who was substituted for Mr. Wilde? How is that mentioned by the Lord Chancellor? Mr. Richard Bethell, in his evidence, tells us, at Question 2,357—Did Mr. Welch make any request to you to use your influence with the Lord Chancellor to obtain for him an appointment?—In 1862 I think it was; I must tell you that though I saw Mr. Welch constantly at Richmond some years ago, yet when I was acting in 1861 as principal secretary to the Lord Chancellor I saw very little of him. I was too much occupied; but soon after I obtained the appointment of registrar in Quality Court, Mr. Welch called upon me one day, and asked me to put him in the way of making the strongest application he could to the Lord Chancellor for preferment. Of course we discussed the sort of appointment he wanted; he was anxious to obtain a County Court Judgeship. I told him I thought there was no chance of getting that, for I knew that the Lord Chancellor had made two or three promises, but I thought there was a better chance of his obtaining a registrarship in bankruptcy. He then consulted with me as to the names of the persons from whom he could get testimonials, and he assured me that Sir William Atherton, then Attorney General, and several leading men on the Northern Circuit, would write the strongest letters possible on his behalf. I told 1059 him that if he would get those testimonials, I had no objection at all to tell the Lord Chancellor that he was a personal friend of mine, and that I would bring his name prominently forward whenever a vacancy occurred, as one of the candidates for the office. This was done, I believe. I remember in 1863 mentioning that matter to the Lord Chancellor. The Lord Chancellor told me to tell him that there were so many candidates before him, that he was very much afraid there was very little chance indeed of his being able, during his tenure of office, to do anything for him.When this vacancy occurred, on the retirement of Mr. Wilde, the Lord Chancellor was told by Mr. Miller that haste was necessary in filling up the appointment; but it appears, from the evidence of Richard Bethell, that the Lord Chancellor in 1863, a year before, had bad Mr. Welch brought before him as a candidate for appointment, when he had said that he feared, because there were so many candidates before him, he should be unable to do anything for him. Then why was Mr. Welch selected out of all those candidates? The Lord Chancellor said that he went upon his recollection of the high testimonials which that gentleman Lad produced. I am bound to admit that the testimonials of Mr. Welch are satisfactory, and I raise no question upon that point. A great deal has been said about a testimonial from Sir William Atherton, but, as a testimonial, it is not worth the paper on which it is written. Sir William Atherton was a very cautious man, and I think, when the letter was submitted to the Lord Chancellor, it did not go very far as a recommendation of Mr. Welch. Sir William Atherton writes in the way in which members of the same circuit write of and to each other—Dear Welch,—Your note has reached me to day. You are still at liberty to refer to me, but that is all I am in a condition to say. I could not write such a letter of introduction as you mention.Tours faithfully,WILLIAM ATHERTON.I do not think much of a testimonial such as that. But I admit that this gentleman has other testimonials which are satisfactory. Mr. Edward James wrote to say that "in any office which may be bestowed upon you, you would do justice," Mr. Udall says, "You are particularly qualified for a legal appointment." Mr. Temple considers him a "gentleman of honour and well qualified for an appointment requiring industry and activity." Mr. Manisty also considers "that you are well qualified for any appointment." I say, unhesitatingly, that those certificates would, under ordinary circumstances, have justified the 1060 Lord Chancellor in appointing Mr. Welch. There is nothing special in them; they are certificates which fifty out of sixty men on the Northern Circuit could obtain. I believe very few men on circuit but what are called "black sheep" would find any difficulty in obtaining such certificates. They are sufficient to justify the appointment of Mr. Welch but for one circumstance—Mr. Welch had been recommended to the Lord Chancellor by Richard Bethell. It cannot be said that the Lord Chancellor could have forgotten the circumstances under which his son had mentioned that gentleman's name, because they were very peculiar. Mr. Richard Bethell tells us at Question 2,365—When you had a conversation with the Lord Chancellor upon the subject of Mr. Wilde did you on that occasion mention the name of Mr. Welch? —No, certainly not; I never mentioned his name to the Lord Chancellor except in an incidental manner. It is a very curious thing which recalls it to my recollection, and I may as well state it to the Committee. Mr. Welch had an estate for sale in Suffolk, which he had acquired in right of his wife; and he was exceedingly anxious that I should induce the Lord Chancellor to purchase this estate. The Lord Chancellor was at that time desirous of having a manor in Suffolk; he is very fond of shooting, and I thought that this estate might suit him. Mr. Welch sent me drawings and plans of the estate, and I remember showing them to the Lord Chancellor, and his asking me to whom the estate belonged, and to get him all the particulars about it. I said, 'The estate belongs to a gentleman at the bar, who is a candidate for office before you.' He said, 'What is he a candidate for?' I said, 'He wants to be a registrar in bankruptcy.' The Lord Chancellor then made this observation, 'Poor fellow, tell him I am afraid there is very little chance for him.'Is it possible that such a recommendation by Mr. Richard Bethell could have escaped his Lordship's memory? And when the Lord Chancellor remembered that Mr. Welch had been originally recommended to him by his son, the fact should have made him pause and hesitate, however high the testimonials. I do not mean to say that he must have known that any corrupt means had been employed to obtain those recommendations, but he should have searched and investigated the matter thoroughly before appointing Mr. Welch. Question 460 is thus answered by Mr. Miller—Had he been a registrar before then?—Yes, Mr. Richard Bethell was appointed registrar in March, 1862, and he resigned in May, 1864. On the 14th of May, 1864, I received from the Lord Chancellor a letter which, if the Committee desire it, I will read. This is the Lord Chancellor's original letter; it directs me to prepare an order for Mr. Bethell's instant removal —1061'"Saturday, May 14, 1864.Sir,—It has just come to my knowledge in the most sudden and overwhelming manner, that my eldest son, Mr. Bethel!, has been guilty of the most flagrant misconduct. He is stated to me (and the fact admits of no doubt) to have lost during the last twelvemonth very large sums of money by betting at races, and to have raised money to pay these debts by bills of exchange and loans in every quarter.' [I call particular attention to these words.] 'He is also stated to have been for some time in the habit of neglecting personal attendance at his office, and to have had his official duties discharged by deputy. I feel it my duty instantly to remove him from his office. I beg you to prepare an order without a moment's delay, stating' it has been proved to my satisfaction that Mr. Richard Augustus Bethell has neglected the duties of his office, and is unfit to be continued therein, 'and that I therefore remove him from the office of one of the registrars of the court as from this day. It would be idle to speak to you of the state of mind I am in; but I am determined that he shall be instantly removed, and that in the manner which justice requires.'Your faithful servant, WESTBURY.'To the Chief Registrar.'"Well," says Mr. Miller, "that is an insufficient reason which was assigned by the Lord Chancellor for the removal of his son. He had been losing money at races, and had been raising money by bills, It is not a course to be approved of, but it is not a reason for dismissing an official." What is the Lord Chancellor's answer to that? His answer to that was that "it was due to the public that his son should resign." From that letter he does not appear to have gone into particulars with Mr. Miller, but I gather from it that Mr. Miller must have known that there was good cause for dismissing Mr. Bethell. With regard to the expression, "It has come to my knowledge in a sudden and overwhelming manner," I should wish to refer to another part of the evidence—that of Mr. Skirrow, whose name I shall have to mention again. At Question 2,672 a letter from the Lord Chancellor to Mr. Skirrow is read, in which he says of his son —I am sure he must be indebted to you; I will repay you. But do not lend any more money to him, for it is a, direct encouragement to evil. If his wife and six little children, affection for his father and brothers and sisters, and regard for his own character and position, have not been sufficient to keep him from plunging a fourth time into these mad and evil courses, nothing will.On this I may remark that if running into evil courses three times did not prevent the Lord Chancellor originally appointing this son to the office of Registrar in Bankruptcy in 1862, why should a fourth time make it necessary to remove him? The 1062 inference I draw from that is that there was some important fact present to the Lord Chancellor's mind with regard to his son which is, perhaps, covered by the words I have read —"raising money and loans in every quarter"—which induced the Lord Chancellor to think that it was due to the public that his son should resign his office. If that were the case—if he were awake to the proceedings of his son when the name of Mr. Welch was submitted to him—he ought to have recollected that his son had used his good offices on behalf of Mr. Welch; he ought to have searched more anxiously to discover if his son had had any corrupt dealing with Mr. Welch. I do not impute to the Lord Chancellor more than this—I do not believe that he had any knowledge that there was a corrupt bargain; but the circumstances were so suspicious that it was his bounden duty not to have put that name into the blank in the appointment until a searching inquiry had taken place. Hut what is Richard Bethell's own version of his reason for resigning? At Question 2,345 he says—Mr. Skirrow," (who seems to have been a trustee of his marriage settlement and a great friend of his wile,) "came to me and said, 'Do pray, Richard, resign. The Lord Chancellor is in such a state of indignation that I cannot tell what he may do; he does threaten to dismiss you,' though," (adds Mr. Bethell) "there was no case for dismissal.At 2,335 he says—My reason for tendering my resignation was, that I felt I was in too embarrassed a position to remain in this country unless some arrangement could be made.And he goes on—My own private reason for tendering my resignation was that the Lord Chancellor had made me acquainted with the proceedings which were pending against Mr. Wilde, and I felt in my own mind that I could not, with any justice, ask him to extend any favour to me or treat me in any manner different from that in which I knew he was going to treat Mr. Wilde.That seems a romantic sentiment coming from a man who was so involved that he had to leave his office and go abroad to avoid his creditors, and whose debts were said to be something between £20,000 and £25,000; but it seems to me there is falsehood on the face of it. I have now nearly done with the case of Mr. Wdde's retirement and Mr. Welch's appointment. What I impute to the Lord Chancellor was that he was guilty of culpable negligence, that he did not read the certificate, and that he did not make a searching inquiry 1063 before he put Mr. Welch into Mr. Wilde's place, remembering the connection of the name with his son. I do not believe in my own mind that the Lord Chancellor was aware of any corrupt sale of office. But the circumstances were suspicious—the manner in which Mr. Wilde had been hustled out of the office by Mr. Miller—who he must have known was in his son's interest—was a reason why he should have delayed long before he acted in so hasty and unwise a manner.
We come now to another plot. Mr. Welch being instituted into office at Leeds, and Mr. Richard Bethell having been compelled by his father to resign his Registrarship, it so happened that the case of the Edmunds' defalcations arose. It appears that Mr. Richard Bethell pressed his father to fill the vacancy then created with his own name; but the Lord Chancellor declined, and then it was determined to fill up the vacancy with Slingsby Bethell's name. Mr. Slings by Bethell was at that time a Registrar in Bankruptcy in London. As that office could not be held simultaneously with the Reading Clerkship of the House of Lords, Mr. Richard Bethell's friends thought that a fine opportunity for getting him a snug berth. Then comes another actor on the stage—Mr. Skirrow— Mr. Skirrow, who, I suppose, knows well what will pass muster with the public and what will not—evidently thought it was too strong a thing to put Richard Bethell into a Registrarship in London; but he thought if some country Registrar were brought to London Mr. Bethell could take the country Registrarship. Anything was good enough for the country. That was the scheme. Mr. Richard Bethell was to be appointed to Leeds, and Mr. Welch was to be transferred to London. But there was the difficulty with the Lord Chancellor to be got over. He was reluctant to appoint his son to any place whatever; and though one may make every allowance for his feelings as a father, his reluctance was certainly well grounded. I must recall the attention of the House to the fact that as soon as Mr. Slingsby Bethell took his seat as Reading Clerk in the House of Lords Mr. Welch lent Mr. Richard Bethell £300 more. That was on the 20th February. On the 18th February Mr. Skirrow had an interview with the Lord Chancellor, of which he gives the following account. He is asked (2,711)—"Had you any communication with Mr. 1064 Welch about that time?" And he replies—Towards the end of February, about the 17th or 18th, I mentioned that the Lord Chancellor intended, or had made up his mind, to appoint Mr. Slingsby Bethell to the House of Lords, and I saw at once that there would be a vacancy in London among the registrars. I then thought it would be worth while to appeal to the Lord Chancellor again—I was always averse to Mr. Bethell coming to London, because I thought he would be with his friends, and that a country appointment might very properly be given to him, considering the manner in which he had been compelled by his father to resign. Accordingly, on Saturday, the 18th February, I proceeded to Lincoln's Inn, where the Lord Chancellor was sitting. The Lord Chancellor had risen for the day, and when I went in I announced to him what I had come about. The Lord Chancellor was very angry. He said I had taken a very great liberty in pressing upon him any appointment for his son.On the 22nd, however, the Lord Chancellor sent for Mr. Skirrow to come to his house directly; and this is what Mr. Skirrow says took place at that interview and in consequence of it—I therefore pointed out to the Lord Chancellor that it really was impossible she (meaning Mrs. Bethell) could leave the country for three or four months, and I again urged him to re-consider his views about his son. I am ready to admit that I put it to him in the strongest and most affectionate manner, and that the Lord Chancellor did listen to me; but he told me he would do nothing and could do nothing until I had laid before him a statement of the debts, and how they would be compromised and arranged. I did not see much advantage in that, but the Lord Chancellor certainly received me more kindly and he gave me permission, after seeing his son, to talk to him again on the subject; but he never said that he would appoint Richard to any place, and he never authorized me to say so. On the morning of the 22nd, after leaving the Lord Chancellor, I saw Mr. Bethell. Speaking to him, of course, without any reticence, and without any caution (and I am afraid that I did it in a very incautious way), I have no doubt I told Mr. Bethell that I thought his wife's letter had done a great deal of good, and that the Lord Chancellor certainly was more courteous, and I told Mr. Bethell that he must immediately set to work and prepare a list of all the debts, how they were situated, and what could be done with them.Mr. Richard Bethell was told by Mr. Skirrow that he ought to make an arrangement with his creditors. The reply which I have been quoting is continued in these words—I should state, perhaps, which I had forgotten, that at the interview with the Lord Chancellor on the Wednesday morning my view was that the Lord Chancellor should transfer some person to London, and give Mr. Bethell a country appointment, and my mind was very much directed to Bristol, as Mrs. Bethell's family lives in that county. When I saw Mr. Bethell he said he 1065 should prefer Leeds, and I think he said he was going on a visit to Leeds, and that he would look about there and see if he could get a house for his wife.It is quite clear that, in this interview with the Lord Chancellor, Mr. Skirrow pressed on his Lordship the arrangement which Mr. Richard Bethell wished for, and that, while making no distinct promise, the Lord Chancellor said he would consider it. Mr. Skirrow communicated this to Mr. Richard Bethell; and what was his impression of what had taken place between Mr. Skirrow and the Lord Chancellor? In Answer 2,463 he says—I was naturally very unwilling to come back and serve again in the London Court where I had served so recently, and I thought that I would rather go out of London, and live quietly in the country, and I suggested to my wife, as she was going to pay a visit to the Lord Chancellor, that she should endeavour to get him to consent to bring up Mr. Welch from Leeds and allow me to succeed him at Leeds, and that we would live at Harrogate, and that I should be able to go in and out by train and perform my duties.Again, in a letter to Mr. Miller, he says—I had not time to call on you previous to leaving London, but I suppose you have heard that the Chancellor intends to transfer Mr. Welch from the Leeds district to London, and to appoint me to the district.It is quite clear, therefore, that the impression left on the minds of both Mr. Richard Bethell and Mr. Skirrow was that the Lord Chanceller would consider the proposal, and, further, they were so far convinced of their ability to bring him round that they got Mr. Miller to make out two appointments. By whose directions? Mr. Skirrow himself was a creditor of Mr. Richard Bethell. The latter had owed him a large sum of money, and at this particular time he owed him £600. He had, therefore, a direct personal interest in Mr. Richard Bethell's receiving a valuable appointment. Was Mr. Skirrow aware of the advances made by Mr. Welch to Mr. Richard Bethell? Let him speak for himself. The question was twice put to him. In Question 2,687 he was asked—Were you at all aware of Mr. Bethell having any money transaction with Mr. Welch in May, 1864?What is his reply?—I should say not; but I heard of so many people who had bills, and so many debts, that I could not positively swear that I never heard the name—but certainly it was never brought prominently before me.Now, I call that fencing with the question. In Question 2,756 he is again asked— 1066Were you ever aware that Mr. Welch was a creditor of his?The answer is remarkable—I saw many people in May, 1864, but it never was prominently brought before me. I had a great many personal interviews with people, but I never saw Mr. Welch.I leave it to the House to judge from these two answers to a simple question whether Mr. Skirrow was or was not aware of what was passing between Mr. Richard Bethell and Mr. Welch. Well, while Mr. Skirrow, Mr. Welch, and Mr. Richard Bethell are engaged in this part of the transaction, Mr. Miller, who is not affected by the evidence with any share in that corruption, takes a most extraordinary step. He has two appointments engrossed. By whose directions were those appointments engrossed? Mr. Miller says by Mr. Skirrow's; Mr. Skirrow positively contradicts him. That almost leads to the supposition that the contradiction had been previously arranged. Mr. Miller says he engrossed the appointment by the direction of Mr. Skirrow. The latter says he never gave him such a direction. Be this as it may, Mr. Miller took the extraordinary step of preparing the two engrossments, and submitting them to the Lord Chancellor. He is asked, whether he ever did such a thing before? His answer is, "Once." "In whose favour?" "Mr. Richard Bethell's." When Mr. Slingsby Bethell was appointed to the office of reading clerk in the House of Lords, and vacated his registrarship in the London Court, Mr. Miller thought the Lord Chancellor could be prevailed upon to appoint Mr. Richard Bethell to the latter office, and, without any directions from his Lordship, proceeded to make out the engrossment. Looking at all this, can any one doubt that Mr. Miller was in this plot? No one who reads the evidence carefully can have any doubt of it. On the 22nd Mr. Skirrow left the Lord Chancellor under the impression that he would be prevailed upon to make the arrangement. What is the Lord Chancellor's own account of this matter? In Answer 3,375 he says—But in the month of February of the present year his friends surrounded me, and his wife wrote to me, and I ascertained that there was no reproach attaching to him on the ground that he had neglected his duty; I found that it was a false imputation. I was then entreated to give him some appointment, provided he got a release from all his creditors. What I said upon that occasion was this, that I would make no promise, but that I would consider the matter when the release was obtained.1067 Taking the Lord Chancellor's own account of the matter, as given in that answer, I do not think Mr. Skirrow and Mr. Richard Bethell were very far wrong in thinking that if the latter gentleman could get a release from his creditors the Lord Chancellor would consider the arrangement, and I do not think Mr. Skirrow very much misrepresented his Lordship's feelings. The noble and learned Lord continues—This was some time, if I recollect rightly, in the month of February in the present year. Ill-formation then reached me that there was so little hope of his being weaned from these courses that I found he had pursued the same thing at Paris. I then sent for Mr. Skirrow, and I begged him never to mention the subject to me again, for that I had determined never to appoint him.He is asked again, Question 3,399—Has your Lordship ever given Mr. Skirrow reason to suppose that you would be willing to appoint Mr. Bethell to Leeds and Mr. Welch to London?He replies—Mr. Skirrow was the gentleman who solicited me to appoint my son to an office in the country. Two places, I think, were mentioned to me by him on that occasion; one was, I think, Leeds, and the other, I think, was Bristol. I never told Mr. Skirrow anything more than this—that if my son succeeded in getting released from his creditors I would consider the matter.The Lord Chancellor expresses himself in these terms on the 22nd of February. On the 24th Mr. Richard Bethell writes to Mr. Miller that the transfer is going to take place; and on the 26th the Lord Chancellor has ultimately made up his mind that he will not make the appointment. In answer 2,724 Mr. Skirrow says—On Sunday morning, the 26th, the Lord Chancellor sent for me. The moment I entered the room he was excessively violent, and he told me that he had deeply regretted that he had sent for me on Wednesday, as I had taken advantage of that interview, and had misrepresented to Richard what had taken place. He was very angry. I repeated to him exactly the conversation which had passed between Mr. Bethell and myself, and which I have stated here, but he positively told me that he would never listen, directly or indirectly, to any application about his son.I was at a loss to understand this change of mind on the part of the Lord Chancellor between the 22nd and the 26th. It occurred to me that something must have happened between those dates, and I turned to Parliamentary Papers and to the public journals of the time in order to see whether they would throw any light on the matter. I will ask the House to look at the dates connected with the appointment of the Lord Chancellor's son to the post of Reading Clerk to the House of 1068 Lords. On the 14th of February the Lord Chancellor presented a petition from Mr. Edmunds, asking to be allowed to retire upon a pension. On the 17th the Lord Chancellor appointed Mr. Slingsby Bethell. On the 20th Mr. Slingsby Bethell took his seat as Reading Clerk in the House of Lords; and it was on the 22nd that Mr. Skirrow endeavoured to induce the Lord Chancellor to appoint his son to the office at Leeds, which the Lord Chancellor said he would consider of. On the 25th, which was Saturday, an article appeared in one of the Saturday papers denouncing the conduct of the Lord Chancellor in filling up the place vacated by Mr. Edmunds with his son, Mr. Slingsby Bethell. Now, I believe that article in the Saturday paper recalled the Lord Chancellor to a sense of his duty. The learned Lord opposite (the Lord Advocate), I see, dissents, but can he explain upon any other supposition the sudden change of mind on the part of the Lord Chancellor? I believe that the Lord Chancellor was actuated on the 22nd by kindly feelings. I believe that Mr. Richard Bethell's wife had appealed to those feelings which we rejoice to see in the Lord Chancellor as a man. His private feelings for the moment overpowered his sense of duty to the public, but I believe that when those remarks appeared in the public papers he very properly overcame those kindly feelings, and deferred to the sense of duty to the public which had actuated him before those influences were brought to bear upon him. I believe this is the history of the sudden change of mind on the part of the Lord Chancellor. I believe that but for those remarks in the public press—and not only in the public press, for the Edmunds scandal was the talk of the whole town —this second job would have been carried out. I believe that Mr. Welch would have been transferred to the Court in London, and Mr. Richard Bethell would have been sent to the Court in Leeds, in accordance with the corrupt bargain made between those two men. I do not impute to the Lord Chancellor any knowledge of the corrupt bargain between Mr. Welch and Mr. Richard Bethell, but when we have said that we have said all we can say for him. I do not think any one can say that he has in these transactions shown that vigilance for the public interests which the public have a right to expect from him. But, I ask, does the evidence show that he was shocked at the notion of having appointed a man to 1069 an office who was a creditor of his son? I am satisfied on the evidence that the Lord Chancellor was not aware of it, but the question is put to him (No. 3,370)—Had your Lordship any knowledge that Mr. Welch had lent money to Mr. Bethel! before this appointment was made?—Answer. Not the least.Then the next question is—If your Lordship had been aware of it, would the appointment have been made?—It is difficult to say what I should have done, but I think I should not have appointed him.Now, I ask the House, was there that high sense of honour in the Lord Chancellor to have listened to the notion that he would appoint a man to an office who had made an advance to his son, and that Bon having recommended him to his post? I should have thought that if such a question had been put to the Lord High Chancellor of England he would have scouted the notion as an impossibility. I think that one sentence of the Lord Chancellor goes more to condemn him than the whole of the evidence.
I have asked the House to judge, not upon the one case only, but upon the two—the Edmunds' case as well as the other. The Committee of the other House of Parliament have reported, in substance, that Mr. Edmunds, having been guilty of defalcations in the several offices he held, amounting to want of personal integrity, the Lord Chancellor said be would not stand in the way of his retiring upon a pension. He presented a petition to the House of Lords from Mr. Edmunds, asking for a pension, and did not apprise the Committee who took that petition into consideration of what Mr. Edmunds' irregularities had been. In the case of the Leeds Bankruptcy Court the Lord Chancellor himself signed the order for Mr. Wilde's pension after having called upon him to show cause in open court why he should not be dismissed from his office. In the other case, it not being in his province himself to grant the pension, be connived—I do not wish to use a harsh expression—he was privy to, and allowed the Committee to grant that pension, he himself being cognizant of the strongest reasons for not granting it, without informing the Committee of those reasons. The Committee of the House of Lords acquitted the Lord Chancellor of any improper motive. The Committee of the House of Commons acquitted him of everything but haste and want 1070 of caution in granting the retiring pension. I say that, putting these cases together, they show a moral obtuseness on the part of the Lord Chancellor which, in my judgment, and I think in the judgment of the House and the country, disqualifies him from discharging those grave duties that belong to his office. Sir, when this retiring pension had been granted under these extraordinary circumstances to Mr. Edmunds —that pension now most righteously rescinded— who was put into the place vacated by Mr. Edmunds? The Lord Chancellor's son. Now, I have not a word to say against Mr. Slingsby Bethell's character. I believe that he is quite a proper person to hold that office. But I say that a man of nice sensibilities would have paused before he filled up with his son a place that had been vacated in such a way. I impute no improper motives to the Lord Chancellor in this case, but I say that it has had a bad effect in the country. It has led people to think that the object to be attained in granting a retiring pension was a vacancy. It has given rise to the suspicion that the object was a vacancy. I do not impute that to the Lord Chancellor, but it has induced people to think so. When these facts come before the public they do not enter into the evidence so nicely as we do here. They do not temper justice with mercy, as we are prepared to do now. When the facts came before them that Mr. Edmunds, a defaulter, was allowed, with the sanction of the Lord Chancellor, to retire from his office, and that the Lord Chancellor's Becond son was put in his place; that Mr. Wilde was allowed by the Lord Chancellor, upon an insufficient medical certificate, to retire from his office with a pension; and that a gentleman had been appointed to succeed him who had lent to another son £1,050, can we wonder that the public should draw their own conclusions? I acquit the Lord Chancellor of any corrupt motives, either in making the vacancy or in filling up the appointment; but I say that he has given great occasion of scandal in the country. He has led people to think that places can be obtained by corrupt means, and that the Lord Chancellor does not stand too nicely upon reasons for removing one man and putting in another. And I say that this state of things, this want of vigilance, this supineness, this indifference—I might almost say this fatuous simplicity, if such words can be applied to such a man as the Lord Chancellor—I say that the unsus- 1071 piciousness that has enabled his subordinates and those around him to practise that corruption which, I admit, he himself is free from, is almost as bad for the country, although not for himself, as if he were personally guilty of this corruption.
I have now concluded my remarks, I hope I have satisfied the House that I have not brought forward this matter on light grounds. I know not whether the majority of this House will affirm the Resolution that I place before them, but I feel satisfied that the country will think that it is a duty we owe to it to pass in review the conduct of the Lord Chancellor. This House will shortly be dissolved. At every hustings and place of election in the country the returning officer, in obedience to an Act which, in our zeal for purity, we have passed, will proclaim the pains and penalties that will accrue to any elector who may be engaged in corrupt proceedings. And I ask, when that is read to the electors, will they not ask—Is the Legislature of this country sincere and earnest? Is it only the corruption of £10 householders, freemen, and liverymen that they are so anxious to punish, or will they punish corruption pervading the functionaries of the highest Court of the kingdom, and unchecked by the highest Judge of the land? I have done my part towards finding an answer to these questions. I now ask the House to consider this question calmly and judicially, as I have endeavoured to do. I ask them to do so without reference to party. I ask them to give to the Resolution which I have the honour to propose such consideration as may satisfy their own consciences and the honour of the country.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That the evidence taken before the Committee of this House, on the Leeds Bankruptcy Court, discloses that a great facility exists for obtaining Public Appointments by corrupt means; and that such Evidence, and also that taken before a Committee of the House of Lords in the case of Leonard Edmunds, and laid before this House, shows a laxity of Practice and want of caution, on the part of the Lord Chancellor, in sanctioning the grant of retiring pensions to Public Officers over whose heads grave charges are impending, and in filling up the vacancies made by the retirement of such Officers, whereby great encouragement has been given to corrupt practices; and that such laxity and want of caution, even in the absence of any improper motive, are, in the opinion of this House, highly reprehensible, and calculated to throw discredit on the administration of the High Offices of State."—(Mr. Hunt.)
THE LORD ADVOCATE
Sir, I very gladly acknowledge the tone of moderation and temper in which the hon. Gentleman has dealt with this very important subject. It may, perhaps, be not without significance to consider for a moment what the effect of laying the evidence before the House and the public has been—for if we had come to a Resolution on this very grave question some days ago upon the statement of the hon. and learned Member for Mallow (Mr. Longfield), we should, upon the admission of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Hunt), have proceeded upon grounds for which there was not a shadow of foundation. Sir, the other day the noble Lord opposite (Viscount Cranbourne) seemed to suggest that I ought not to take any part in this discussion, and that I could not do so without an appearance of partiality. I suppose, because the House did me the honour of putting me on the Committee for the purpose of examining the witnesses, the noble Lord assumed that I could not give my opinion of the case without prejudice. I am surprised at such an objection coming from the noble Lord. I am surprised the noble Lord did not recollect that on a former occasion he occupied an exactly similar position. This House, urged thereto very much by the noble Lord, had driven another very eminent Member of the Government from office, by a vote which I rather think now every Member of this House who voted upon the subject regrets. The noble Lord sat upon the Education Committee of last year; but, notwithstanding, he did not think it unsuitable for him after the Report had been made to the House to take a great, a strong, and a leading part in the discussion of the Report. Therefore I do not think I can be justly accused of entering upon this matter with prejudice. Having had the great advantage of hearing the evidence from day to day, of seeing the witnesses under examination, and of hearing the discussions which took place in Committee, I now offer on behalf of one who if he had been present would have needed no such assistance—on behalf of the Lord Chancellor in his absence, to state to the House the views which occur to me upon the evidence. In the first place, I quite admit that the House should be sensitively jealous of that which is uppermost in the minds of men in connection with this subject—namely, the purity of official administration. But there are other matters also which the House will do well to consider. There has been laid upon 1073 the Lord Chancellor a great variety of imputations, some of them not of the most consistent kind. He has been accused of undue leniency one day and of undue severity the next. It has turned out that the original imputation made in this House with regard to the Leeds Bankruptcy Court rests on no foundation whatever. The suggestion was that Mr. Wilde had been called on to resign and had refused, and that Mr. Welch had been appointed to occupy his office until Mr. Bethell's outlawry should be reversed. That, however, has turned out to be quite false. Now we have had certain other imputations made, which have been withdrawn, by the hon. Gentleman who has just resumed his seat. It is all very well to say that those imputations are not now made; but it is well to remember that they have been made, and that it is difficult for the most impartial man to shake himself free from the prejudices which have been raised. I approach the consideration of this question, therefore, with great anxiety, and I ask the House to give that indulgence which a judicial tribunal always gives to statements which are made in behalf of a person against whom grave charges have been made.
Now, this Resolution, or series of Resolutions, seems to me to allege nothing that I quite understand, but to suggest a great deal which it does not express. The Committee chosen, and most properly chosen, from the Members of this House, have given their deliverance in this matter, and I think the hon. Gentleman and the House would have done well to content themselves with the verdict of that Committee. How far the Resolution before the House goes beyond the Report of the Committee I shall not now stop to say; I will come to that afterwards. But I wish to recall to the attention of the House the circumstances under which the retirement of Mr. Wilde and the appointment of Mr. Welch took place. I wish to consider this question under two separate heads. I will inquire, first, into the retirement of Mr. Wilde and the appointment of Mr. Welch in July, 1864; and then into the entirely separate and unconnected proceedings in the month of February, 1865. There appears to be an idea that there was some connection between the two; but they are entirely distinct. What led to the proceedings with respect to Mr. Wilde? The hon. Gentleman opposite seems to think that these proceedings arose from some sort of 1074 corrupt bargain between Mr. Welch and Mr. Wilde. [Mr. HUNT: I distinctly disclaimed any such idea.] At all events, the real nature of the transaction was this:— In the year 1864 very great complaints had arisen with regard to the administration of the local Bankruptcy Courts. A Committee was appointed in that year, and has been again appointed this year to inquire into the justice and truth of those complaints. So numerous had the complaints become that in April, 1864, the Lord Chancellor found it necessary to make an inquiry, not alone into the Court at Leeds, but into all the Courts; and he appointed Mr. Ayrton, Commissioner of the Leeds Bankruptcy Court, and Mr. Harding, an accountant of London, to go over all the Courts to inquire. Mr. Miller was the Chief Registrar, and he was examined before the Bankruptcy Committee on the 3rd of May, 1864. His evidence will be found at page 8 of the Report of that year. Mr. Ayrton's first Report on these proceedings is also now printed. His second Report will be found at page 361. Therefore the Bankruptcy Committee had full cognizance of what was going on. Mr. Harding was examined on the 30th of June 1864, and he gave an account of his proceedings. He stated that he went to Leeds, Birmingham, Newcastle, and Nottingham, and in all these places he found very serious grounds of complaint. With regard to Leeds, he found there were grounds of complaint against both the Registrars, the official assignees, and the messengers, and so reported; and without detaining the House, it will be enough to say that if they look to Mr. Harding's evidence on the 30th of June, 1864, pages 256 and 253, they will find that with respect to Newcastle, Nottingham, and other places, very similar evidence was given. Mr. Miller was asked —In all these cases are the persons charged offered an opportunity of making their defence and giving in their own statement?—Yes, before we conclude any case, we give the examination to the individual to look at, and ask whether he has any observation to make upon it, and whether there are any corrections which, in his opinion, should be made, and he has also an opportunity of sending his remarks to the Lord Chancellor.I find also, that the complaints with regard to Leeds were very much matters of publicity in July, 1864. In the proposed Report on the 22ud of July, 1864, it is stated —As to the Registrars, these gentlemen appear to hold an anomalous position, occasionally dis- 1075 charging the functions of the Commissioners, and when not so occupied their duties appear to be such as would be better discharged by experienced accountants; their utility under the existing system appears to be of an extremely limited character; as to the control which should be exercised by the Registrars over the messengers of the court, it appears that in one of the district courts, two of the Registrars were actually under pecuniary obligations to the messengers of the court, and had been so for many years. The Registrars are intrusted with the audit and taxation of the messengers' bills of costs against the bankrupt estate, and in the cases referred to, each of the messengers are reputed to have overcharged sums, amounting in one case to £1,423, and in the other to £1,666 in two years, which overcharges had been allowed by the Registrars, and retained by the messengers.The Lord Chancellor was then engaged in a great, an arduous, and a thankless task —one which was sure to be questioned, and the discharge of which has been questioned. He has found it his duty to reflect upon the conduct of a great number of individuals. There is not one of those individuals or one of their relations who does not feel aggrieved by these proceedings; and the House should take care not to be led by fine-drawn suspicions to weaken the hands of a man who was thus addressing himself in the public interest to a task of great difficulty, who was hampered by obstacles of all kinds, and who was certain, if successful, to bring down upon himself obloquy from the friends of all those against whom he was proceeding. That was the duty upon which the Lord Chancellor was engaged when these affairs began, and we have had laid before the House a Return showing the results which were attained. Here is a list of the sums which have been recovered from official assignees and messengers in the Courts of Bankruptcy, and they amount to over £20,000 —money recovered by the Lord Chancellor's direction from persons who had improperly retained it, and against whom he was obliged to use the powers which the Bankruptcy Court gave him. It may be said, how does that bear upon the present inquiry? In this way—that it is utterly absurd to suppose that the Lord Chancellor was only looking for Mr. Wilde's place in instituting these proceedings. The fact is that the Lord Chancellor was dealing with a large question, affecting others as well as Mr. Wilde; and, having sat upon the Bankruptcy Committee, I appeal to every Member of it whether the evils that had to be redressed were not of the most crying character. In regard to the Leeds Court of Bankruptcy, did the Lord Chan- 1076 cellor mark out Mr. Wilde as a victim simper because he wanted his office for somebody else? Let us see what took place, and in doing so it will be seen that the dates are very material, and that they fortunately show that the accusations against the Lord Chancellor on this head are entirely baseless. On the 7th May, Mr. Miller, who for twenty years had been the Chief Registrar, and in whom the present Lord Chancellor, like his predecessors, was accustomed to repose considerable confidence, wrote to Mr. Templer, one of the messengers at Leeds, requiring him to pay £1,600. The other messenger and the two official assignees received similar notices. They paid the sums found due from them, and so did the other messenger; but Mr. Templer refused. He was accordingly served with a notice to come into court and defend himself, and on the 2nd of July, 1864, he was suspended until he should come in. He came on the 23rd of July, three days before the letter was written to Mr. Wilde; he was heard by counsel; the case was fully considered, and the Lord Chancellor gave judgment, ordering him to pay the balance; but when the balance was paid the suspension was removed, and Mr. Templer was allowed to retain his office. It has been said that, because the Lord Chancellor required Mr. Wilde to do what he required Mr. Templer to do, it is evident that his Lordship desired Mr. Wilde's office, and that Mr. Wilde had no chance of a fair hearing. But Mr. Wilde knew what had been done in Mr. Tempter's case, and knew that Mr. Templer had not been dismissed, but had simply been obliged to pay over the balance. Mr. Wilde was only one of numerous delinquents in the Bankruptcy Court against whom proceedings were taken. Mr. Payne was in the same position. He has made a communication to me with regard to my observations the other night. All I can say is that I have no desire to make accusations against him, and only use his case as illustrative of the views and motives of the Lord Chancellor in this matter. On the 16th of May, Mr. Payne and Mr. Wilde received communications from the Lord Chancellor to the effect that unless they could explain certain charges made against them by Mr. Ayrton, one of the Commissioners, they would be served with notice to show cause why they should not be dismissed. These charges were substantially as follows:—First, that they had unduly certified that certain accounts had 1077 been sanctioned by Mr. Ayrton which had not been so sanctioned by him; secondly, that they had been in the habit of taxing the bills of the messengers without calling for the production of the necessary vouchers; and thirdly, that they had borrowed money both from the official assignees and messengers, thereby destroying their independence and efficiency, Mr. Payne and Mr. Wilde totally denied the truth of these charges. With respect to the borrowing of money, they said that this was an old story, and that they were sorry they had done so, but that the money was now repaid. As to the auditing by Mr. Ayrton Mr. Wilde explained that he did not mean to state that the Commissioner had sanctioned these identical accounts, but that he had sanctioned accounts with similar charges in them, and he thought he was entitled to proceed upon that footing. As to not requiring vouchers from the messengers, Mr. Wilde said he did not think he could go wrong in auditing his accounts as his predecessors had done. This explanation went to the Lord Chancellor about the 20th of May. Before deciding whether he would require Mr. Payne and Mr. Wilde to show cause why they should not be dismissed, the Lord Chancellor asked for a second report from Mr. Ayrton, which was given on the 3rd of June, and sent on the 9th of June to Mr. Payne and Mr. Wilde. There is some dispute as to whether copies of that second report ever reached them. The point is of no great moment, but these facts do appear—that copies were made of this additional report on the 9th of June; that both Mr. Payne and Mr. Wilde knew that such a report had been made, for Mr. Wilde had said so before the 26th of July; and that they had both received a blank envelope coming from the Registrar's office, and had never inquired what that envelope contained. I think we may assume that this report reached them about the 9th of June—at all events, the Lord Chancellor had no reason to suppose it had not—and that down to the 26th of July they had given no reply. Now, up to the 26th of July there was no suspicion of the Lord Chancellor's motives in this matter, and it is not enough to acquit the Lord Chancellor of corrupt motives—the question is, whether he was not proceeding in the ordinary discharge of a public duty? The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Hunt) said, that at that time there were relations between Mr. Welch and Mr. Richard Bethell. But what were 1078 the relations between father and son at that date and two months before? On the 13th of May, 1864, the Lord Chancellor received information which led him on the 14th to write to Mr. Miller stating that his son could no longer be allowed to hold his office. The hon. Gentleman said that Mr. Bethell could not have been fit for his office in 1863. But if hon. Members will refer to the evidence of Mr. Skirrow (Question 2,665) they will find that although Mr. Bethell had previously been a source of discomfort to his father, he had for a considerable time previous to 1863 been living quietly, and had given hopes that his former errors had been repented of. His father, therefore, thought he might be appointed to his office in 1863, and the duties of that office he continued to discharge without complaint down to 1864. It seems to be supposed that the Lord Chancellor should have made inquiry into something as to which he had no suspicion. But did he hesitate for a moment as to his course of proceeding? I shall not read the letters, but I must say they are creditable to the sternness and resolution of the Lord Chancellor, and although Mr. Miller begged for leniency, the Lord Chancellor would show none. It is said that Mr. Bethell went abroad because he was abliged to fly from his creditors. But that is not the fact—it was the Lord Chancellor who insisted that he should go abroad. Surely, it is enough to show the utter folly of the imputations that Mr. Wilde was to be driven out of his office for the benefit of Mr. Bethell, when, at the moment, proceedings were going on against Mr. Wilde, the Lord Chancellor had meted out much more rigid and speedy justice to this son of his, whose interests it was supposed he was promoting by the sacrifice of Mr. Wilde. In answer to Mr. Miller's remonstrance the Lord Chancellor wrote, stating that he would accept an act on Mr. Richard Bethell's resignation, and these were the terms in which the Lord Chancellor wrote to Mr. Skirrow—After a sleepless night I can think of nothing better than the conclusions I mentioned yesterday. It is useless to attempt to make any arrangement founded on his retaining his office. It would be discreditable to me his being allowed to remain. He must leave the country immediately; Germany will be the best place of residence, but care must be taken to fix it in a country where the foreign holder of one of his acceptances could not sue him. All that he can do is to devote himself to the education of his children abroad; It will be greatly for the future benefit of his sons if they become good German and French Scholars. I 1079 shall not listen to any proposal for his return to this country for some years.That was the way in which the Lord Chancellor wrote about a son who, it is now assumed, had so much influence over him that he was listening to that son's opinion as to how public offices should be filled. It is not fair that a great reputation should be imperilled on suspicions and surmises like these. That the Lord Chancellor was sincerely indignant to the heart's core at what had occurred, and that he was determined that no parental feeling should prevent him from dealing out justice to his son, there can be no doubt, and I cannot understand how it could possibly be imagined that Mr. Bethell, who at that time was under a cloud so dark, should have the slightest influence in regard to the proceedings which the Lord Chancellor took. Mr. Bethell went abroad, and came back in September without the leave of the Lord Chancellor, who had never heard of him excepting upon one occasion by letter. If there is justice in this House—and I am sure there is—I am sure that not a single man, laying his band upon his heart, would say that from the 13th of May, when the thunder-cloud broke upon the Lord Chancellor, down to the present time—at all events down to February, 1865, Mr. Richard Bethell's influence had anything to do with the filling up of these offices. But it is said that Mr. Welch had some influence, and it is insinuated that that was the reason why Mr. Wilde was so summarily dismissed and that Mr. Welch obtained the office. The hon. Member states that Mr. Miller was Mr. Bethell's friend. He was, and he did, whether wisely or not, his best to keep Mr. Bethell in office; but from the 15th of May, 1864, until February, 1865, the Lord Chancellor never saw or heard from Mr. Bethell. Therefore Mr. Bethell's influence could not have operated in his mind; and, as for Mr. Welch, he knew nothing about him except that in December he heard that Mr. Welch was applying for office. The hon. and learned Member for Mallow (Mr. Longfield) stated the other night that between the 15th of May and the 26th of July, Mr. Bethell and Mr. Welch were applying to Mr. Miller for the purpose of procuring a vacancy in Mr. Wilde's office; but, unless my memory deceives me, there is not a word to that effect in the evidence. The evidence is conclusive that Mr. Miller had no communication with Mr. Welch; and as to Mr. Richard Bethell's relations 1080 with Mr. Welch the Lord Chancellor had no means whatever of suspecting their existence. The hon. Member who has proposed the present Motion (Mr. Hunt), pressed by the necessities of his position, says he does not mean to charge the Chancellor with knowing anything about these proceedings; but that he ought to have guessed what was going on. Why? The Lord Chancellor received testimonials in favour of Mr. Welch from leaders of the Northern Circuit. But then, said the hon. Gentleman, these testimonials are easily given in favour of any member of the Bar. I hope not; but, if so, the hon. Gentleman's Resolutions had much better have been directed against the leaders of the Northern Circuit than against the Lord Chancellor. Those gentlemen were persons of great name, and if their testimonials are misleading, how is the Lord Chancellor to protect himself against being deceived? I, however, am certain that not a single gentleman would have put his hand to these testimonials while entertaining a different opinion. The Lord Chancellor gave these recommendations the weight he thought they deserved, and the testimonials were to be found entered upon the Lord Chancellor's patronage book, on the 21st of May, 1864, after the disgrace of Mr. Richard Bethell, and after he had ceased to have any communication with his father. With regard to these transactions Mr. Miller's conduct does not appear very satisfactory, though I do not mean to say that there is any ground to impute to Mr. Miller the slightest motive as regards his own personal advantage. He, however, seems not to have exercised his functions with prudence in so important an affair, being acted upon by the sorrow he felt for the young man whose name was so much mixed up in these proceedings. Be that as it may, it is plain that Mr. Miller was not actuated by any motives with respect to Mr. Wilde's office, because it was on the 16th of May that he states he advised the Lord Chancellor to dismiss both Mr. Wilde and Mr. Payne together on the ground of Mr. Ayrton's report. Now we come to the 26th of July. The Lord Chancellor had waited for nearly six weeks, or from the 9th of June, the date when he supposed that copies of Mr. Commissioner Ayrton's report had been sent to Mr. Wilde and Mr. Payne; and in the meantime he had been considering the case of Mr. Templer, who manfully came forward to answer the charges against him, 1081 and to show cause why he should not be dismissed. He did show such cause, and he was not dismissed. If Mr. Wilde and Mr. Payne had taken the same course, they would have received an equally fair hearing. But on the 26th of July, no answer being returned by them, the Lord Chancellor felt that that could not be allowed to go on indefinitely, and said to Mr. Miller, "You must write and tell Mr. Payne and Mr. Wilde that they must come and show cause in open court why they should not be dismissed." I believe that Mr. Payne holds that he has been very ill used, that there was no ground for his dismissal, and that he bad not an opportunity of being heard. Far be it from me to pronounce an opinion on that point; but, be that as it may, was there any motive in regard to Mr. Wilde's case that did not equally exist in regard to Mr. Payne's? Was there any protégé of Mr. Richard Bethell's waiting for Mr. Payne's place also? We know that Mr. Payne, like Mr. Wilde, applied for his retiring pension; we know that Mr. Miller prepared the petition for the retiring pension for Mr. Wilde and Mr. Payne, doing precisely the same thing for the one as be did for the other, and that the Lord Chancellor, in filling up Mr. Payne's place as he did Mr. Wilde's, did not proceed upon any personal grounds, but appointed Mr. Stephens, whom be had never seen in his life, but whom be knew, as the editor of a professional work of some merit, to be a fit person for the vacant office. No doubt, Mr. Miller wrote in a strain which the Committee could not approve, and I entirely concur in their opinion on that point. In his letter he confused two matters which ought to have been kept entirely distinct—namely, the question of Mr. Wilde's showing cause why he should not be dismissed, and the question of a retiring pension. I think the two things are so distinct that they ought to be in separate hands. But, be that as it may, the Lord Chancellor gave no authority for this part of Mr. Miller's conduct. It is said that Mr. Miller's letter was couched in threatening and startling language—that be said Mr. Wilde must reply by return of post as to whether he would resign his office or not. At first sight it does seem strong; but it must be remembered that the matter was no new one to Mr. Wilde; he had bad information that such a notice would be served upon him as far hack as the 16th of May, According to his own statement 1082 Mr. Miller had waited six weeks for an answer, and was quite entitled to one. Besides this, Mr. Miller's letters are all peremptory—his is not the polite style of letter writing. If you look to the Report of the Bankruptcy inquiry, you will find that Mr. Miller adopts a similar style in other portions of his correspondence. He wrote, for example, to Mr. Templer about £1,100 which Mr. Templer owed; and, although that may be a sum not always at the command of a messenger in bankruptcy at an hour's notice, Mr. Miller peremptorily required it to be sent by the next morning. With regard to the medical certificate, the Committee express the opinion that the Lord Chancellor acted with undue haste and want of caution in allowing Mr. Wilde to retire upon a pension. I will not dispute that proposition, although I think the words are rather stronger than is necessary. It is very easy, when you have the whole surrounding circumstances before you, and are arguing this matter with something of the bias of certain quarters—it is very easy to apply the plummet and the rule, and to say it was not right for the Lord Chancellor to allow a retiring pension under such circumstances. In my opinion that letter was sufficient if it were right to allow Mr. Wilde to retire at all. But we have seen, not only in this, but also in the Edmunds' case, how facile is the transition from the accusation of driving an innocent man out of his office to the accusation of granting a guilty man a pension. Whether the Lord Chancellor gave this case all the consideration which it demanded is quite a different question. But you must look at how the matter stands. The charges against Mr. Wilde have been brought, more or less, against the officers of all these Courts They have all failed sufficiently to audit their accounts —they have all, or at least a great many of them have, certified accounts without the proper vouchers. What the Lord Chancellor did with Mr. Wilde he must have done with them all. If he was prepared to dismiss Mr. Wilde without a pension, he must be ready to deal in the same manner with Mr. Payne, an old public servant of eighty-two. If that was just, of course he was bound to do it; but in carrying out a great reform of a system like that, was it not a fair matter for the Lord Chancellor to consider whether he should proceed with an amount of severity towards individuals with which public opinion might not sympathize, and against 1083 which local opinion unquestionably would strongly rebel? I say that that was a point which a statesman was entitled to consider. What were the circumstances themselves? The Edmunds' case has no analogy to this. That was a case of personal defalcation, where the party was accused of failure of duty for his own personal advantage. There was no such charge against Mr. Wilde. He was accused of borrowing money from his subordinate officer, but the amount was small, and he had repaid it; and the Lord Chancellor might have been content to administer a reprimand. Mr. Wilde said that Mr. Commissioner Ayrton had certified accounts when he really had not; but his explanation was, that he meant that Mr. Commissioner Ayrton had certified the same charges in the accounts of the previous year. He was accused of not examining sufficiently into the vouchers of the messengers; and his answer was, that that was true, but that he had only followed the example set him by Mr. Payne. We know that it is not so very long ago since charges for travelling expenses were made as a matter of course—that is to say, that officers who had not actually incurred them claimed and obtained payment for them. I am glad that the public officers are now better regulated. Well, the Lord Chancellor had to ask himself the question, "Am I to turn this man out of his office without any allowance, or am I simply to let him remain in office?" I think it would have been a harsh sentence upon Mr. Wilde to have turned him out summarily. The Lord Chancellor thought so, and I am not at all satisfied that if he had acted with the rigour which hon. Gentlemen opposite would now seem to approve, they would not have turned round and accused him of undue severity, and have found just as good reasons in their own estimation for imputing to him improper motives or the exercise of undue influence over him. Whatever excuses, however, might have been pleaded by Mr. Wilde for his conduct, they might not have justified his being permitted to retire on the allowance awarded to him; and certainly no intention to permit him to do so was expressed by the Lord Chancellor to Mr. Miller when my noble and learned Friend directed the latter to order Mr. Wilde to appear and defend himself. There was a question which the Lord Chancellor said might possibly be entertained— namely, whether Mr. Wilde should be 1084 allowed to resign; but the Lord Chancellor distinctly says he never suggested to Mr. Miller that Mr. Wilde should be allowed to retire upon a pension. Whether Mr. Bond, a solicitor at Leeds, is altogether a more impartial judge than the tribunal which I am addressing may be greatly doubted; but he states that Mr. Wilde brought him the letter directing him to appear and show cause why he should not be dismissed. Mr. Bond says, "I knew that it was a foregone conclusion." How did he know that? Did Mr. Templer get a letter of that kind, and did he not go and defend himself like a man, and did he not come back restored to his office? How did Mr. Bond jump so rapidly to his conclusion. It is plain from the evidence that Mr. Bond, to justify the sentence which he passes on that letter, recommended Mr. Wilde to become a party to that which he knew to be a fraud, upon the pretence that Mr. Wilde would not get justice if he went to defend himself in open court. Mr. Hey had recommended Mr. Wilde to retire on his pension, because he thought his eyesight had so much failed. Does not that prove that Mr. Miller was quite correct when he says that he knew that Mr. Wilde was in a position to obtain a certificate to retire? Why Mr. Hey was not called before the Committee I do not know; neither was Mr. Payne, although both might have given important evidence. There was not the same suggestion with regard to Mr. Payne; he was over age, and could retire on that ground alone. It is quite true that when the certificate came before the Lord Chancellor, he knew that Mr. Wilde's accounts had been in an unsatisfactory state. The Lord Chancellor says so himself. At the same time there was not only a certificate, but an affidavit and a petition. Mr. Wilde says that was prepared by Mr. Miller. That, undoubtedly, shows that he was very keen and absurdly officious; but Mr. Miller did for Mr. Payne the same that he did for Mr. Wilde. The certificate is in these terms—Leeds, July 28, 1894.I hereby certify that I have been consulted by Mr. Henry S. Wilde, on account of a failure in his sight, which was a serious hindrance to him in the performance of the duties of his office. Mr. Wilde first consulted me in August, 1863. At his age I cannot look for any improvement in his vision.—SAMUEL HEY, F.R.C.S.That was written by a man who, as Mr. Wilde says, had advised him to retire, and the House will find that which is very im- 1085 portant stated in answer to Questions 947, 948, 949, and 950—How would you reconcile that statement with what you say in your petition, that you had for some time past been afflicted with a failure in your sight, and that it has now become so serious that you are no longer able to perform satisfactorily the duties of your office?—If I had had work to execute at night, I do not hesitate to say that I could not have performed it; that I should not have been able to have continued; I have had as many as twenty bills to do by candlelight, and I could not do it. I may state that sometimes, when I have gone from Mr. Hey's steps, I have had difficulty to find my way down. And yet it has never occurred to you to make any claim for retiring?—I did not do so; Mr. Hey suggested to me that I should get relaxation, but I did not find the inconvenience so great as to induce me to do so. Chairman: Mr. Hey did suggest?—Yes, he did. Colonel Pennant: When was that?—Some time before.It was merely an accident that we discovered that; but if the House look at Mr. Bond's evidence they will find that he understood from Mr. Wilde he never had that advice from Hey. Mr. Wilde himself, in his petition, swears to the following effect. The petition, no doubt, was prepared by Mr. Miller, but it would have been a very odd thing for him to do so unless he had some reason to know how the facts stood. The petition is to this effect—That your petitioner has for some time past been afflicted with a failure in his sight, and that the same has now become so serious that he is no longer able satisfactorily to perform the duties of his office, as appears by the certificate of Samuel Hey, a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons, practising at Leeds, hereunto annexed, and is consequently desirous of retiring.Is that not true? Mr. Wilde swears it is true in the affidavit, He came before the Committee, and said it was true. It may be that he intended to struggle on; but that will make the affidavit and the petition false? And even if the Lord Chancellor had not given his mind to it, is he to be liable to the censure of this House because he permitted Mr. Wilde to resign? Payne had been permitted to resign. I do not ask the House not to concur in that part of the Committee's Report, that it would have been better that the Lord Chancellor had directed his mind to the character of the certificate; but I deny that the offence committed is of that grave nature represented by the hon. Gentleman opposite. It is not a condonation of corrupt practices. The resignation was a deserved punishment inflicted on Mr. Wilde. The two things are entirely distinct. I hare sometimes had matters of this kind 1086 to consider, and I cannot help thinking I should have acted in the same manner. More consideration should have been given to the nature of the certificate; but, on the other hand, I should not have hesitated to allow Mr. Wilde to retire on a pension, holding it best for the public that he should resign. He was punished by resigning his office. It would have been a severe sentence to have sent him adrift. Corruption extended to other Courts as well as Leeds, to other officials as well as registrars; and I do not know that the Lord Chancellor was called upon in the case of Wilde to make so very strong and stringent an example. But that is matter of opinion. I do not justify the Lord Chancellor; but the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Hunt) was himself obliged in candour to admit that you must deal with public men and offices according to the views of practical life. Public business could not go on for a single day if a Minister could not take for granted that a particular subordinate officer bad performed his duty and signed particular documents—if, for example, the Secretary of State for the Home Department could not take Mr. Waddington's word for a great deal that goes on in that Office. It seems to be supposed that the Lord Chancellor was bound to suspect Mr. Miller. Mr. Miller had been for twenty years at the head of the working staff of the Bankruptcy Courts, which is only one of the onerous duties the Lord Chancellor has to perform. He had no reason to suspect him. I have been most anxious to see if any motive was attributable to Mr. Miller which he was ashamed to confess. I have found none. The Lord Chancellor knew none; and was he, therefore, to suspect him of a gross dereliction of public duty, because Mr. Hey, a gentleman well skilled in these matters, recommended Mr. Wilde to retire on a pension? There is a discrepancy, I admit, as to the Lord Chancellor's attention having been called to the certificate; I am myself inclined to think the Lord Chancellor's memory the more accurate of the two. But when you have said that you have said all. The Lord Chancellor may have been wanting in vigilance, but there is nothing whatever to give colour to the idea that he was in any way cognizant of any money transactions between Mr. Richard Bethell and Mr. Wilde. I do not think the House will feel disposed to go beyond the expression of opinion which the Committee have placed on record.
1087 So much for the first chapter of my speech. I have dealt with the retirement of Mr. Wilde, and the appointment of Mr. Welch. When we are told that there has been indecent haste in the appointment of Mr. Welch, I ask, how is that shown? I think the contrary is the case. We all know that when official appointments are to be made, the sooner they are made the better. Then, what foundation is there for this attack upon the Lord Chancellor? It never had any foundation. It is based upon a delusion. The money transactions between Mr. Richard Bethell and Mr. Welch could have no influence on the appointment, if they were unknown to the Lord Chancellor, because Mr. Richard Bethell, not being in communication with his father for a long time, could not have exerted any influence in the matter. With respect to the transactions between Mr. Richard Bethell and Mr. Welch, I think it will be better for the House not to enter upon that question, especially as the Committee have recommended a judicial inquiry. I do not think it is possible to defend Mr. Welch upon his own statement; but still I cannot accept the story that is told against him without some further proof. Mr. Harding, who unblushingly comes forward to confess that he expected to receive a bribe of £333 6s. 8d. for being the go-between of Mr. Richard Bethell and Mr. Welch in the perpetration of a corrupt bargain, is not a wholly reliable witness. He is unworthy of credit. His story may be true or it may be false, hut until he and a witness who did not think it prudent to attend before the Committee are submitted to examination upon oath in open court, I cannot consent to condemn Mr. Welch, although I cannot approve his conduct. But, putting that aside, and admitting that Mr. Welch did advance £500 to Mr. Richard Bethell in the beginning of May, and that there have been other money transactions between them, they had not and could not have any connection with the proceedings which the Lord Chancellor instituted against Mr. Wilde. I therefore shall not go into those matters. Mr. Welch may have had his own opinion of what would follow from the advances he had made; but I say that the Lord Chancellor is not in the slightest degree implicated with those transactions. Implicated do I say? There is not the slightest chain of evidence to connect him with transactions of which he was purposely kept ignorant. The curtain falls 1088 on July 31. Mr. Wilde had resigned. He now complains bitterly that he was frightened into resignation; but it was with an alacrity that I cannot comprehend that he jumped at Mr. Miller's suggestion and declined to defend his acts in court. The Lord Chancellor heard no more until February, 1865. Mr. Richard Bethell went abroad and came hack in December, 1864. And here I wish the House to listen to two letters which Mr. Skirrow produced before the Committee—they show the strong feeling of indignation with which he looked upon the career of his son. The first is written after Mr. Richard Bethell came back to England, and in which the Lord Chancellor writes—Sunday.My dear Charles,—I am much disappointed at your not coming down to-morrow …. As to Richard, it is hopeless; let him understand that I neither can nor will ask for any place for him. …. I will increase his allowance to £1,000 per annum if he will go and live in Dresden or some other proper place, and educate his children there, where they can be well brought up.I appeal to all the Members of the Committee whether the evidence of Mr. Skirrow did not produce conviction on their minds. Well, on the 4th of January, 1865, Mr. Skirrow again went to the Lord Chancellor—and this is the account he gives of the interview. He says that whenever he referred to his son the Lord Chancellor assumed a different tone, and upon his quitting the room his Lordship put into his hand an envelope containing a letter addressed to his son, which he told him to read. Let the House remember that this letter is written by the man who on the 26tli of the same month is supposed to have been influenced in the bestowal of his patronage by an article which appeared in some weekly paper. The letter ran—Richard,—Nothing will induce me to give you the place of Clerk at the Table if it should become) vacant; you have been a disgrace and a source of infinite sorrow and reproach to me during the last ten years. I have given you every opportunity of amendment, but there is no hope off you, nor have I the least confidence in your ever having better principles. I will not see you again. Your best course will be to go to the Continent, and try, by attention to your wife and children, to make some amends to them for the grievous injury you have inflicted on them.Mr. Skirrow did not deliver that letter, and he says he is not very sorry that he did not. On the 18th of February Mr. Skirrow again saw the Lord Chancellor, who, so far from relenting, showed still more determination— 1089Accordingly, on Saturday, the 18th of February, I proceeded to Lincoln's Inn, where the Lord Chancellor was sitting. The Lord Chancellor had risen for the day, and when I went in I announced he him what I had come about. The Lord hancellor was very angry. Ho said I had taken a very great liberty in pressing for any appointment for his son, and I remember perfectly that he did a thing which he never did before. He got up and left the room, and went to his carriage without taking any notice of me. I think it was on that day I saw Mr. Richard Bethell, and I told him I would fight his battles no longer, and that I could do nothing with the Lord Chancellor at all.On the 22nd of February, Mrs. Richard Bethell made a heart-breaking appeal to the Lord Chancellor, and which he so far listened to that he said if Richard Bethell could settle with his creditors he would consider what he could do for him. But on the 26th he sent for Mr, Skirrow and told him that he regretted even saying so much, as he had information from Paris concerning his son's conduct there, and nothing should induce him to give him any place. Then, it is said that Mr. Miller prepared certain appointments in his office in the confident expectation that the Lord Chancellor would forgive his son; but it was made as clear as day before the Committee that the Lord Chancellor knew nothing whatever of this until he heard of it in the proceedings of the Committee; that it was entirely Mr. Miller's officiousness. How, then, can that derogate from the Lord Chancellor's position in the matter? I cannot discover the smallest taint of ignoble motives in the Lord Chancellor's conduct; he stands perfectly and thoroughly clear not only in my own mind, but in the minds of all who have studied the facts of the case. The proceedings in regard to Mr. Wilde are perfectly pure; the connection between Mr. Bethell and Mr. Welch had no concern with them. The same thing would have been done had their names never been mixed up in the affair. Fortunately for the Lord Chancellor, the coincidence of events makes it impossible that the charges which have been made can be true; for at the moment the Lord Chancellor is represented as interfering for his son's benefit he was, in fact, compelling him to resign his office, and driving him from the country. I am ready to admit that the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Hunt) has treated the subject with much more taste and moderation than was manifested on a previous occasion? but his finedrawn theories as to what the Lord Chancellor ought to have done, are just as unfounded as the direct accusations of the other night.
1090 The only thing which remains for me to touch upon is the retiring allowance to Mr. Edmunds, and at this late hour of the Parliament I did not expect this matter to be revived. It has been discussed and set at rest in another place. Now, the Lord Chancellor did not grant Mr. Edmunds' pension. It was granted by a Committee of the other House. The Resolution, I find, censures the laxity shown in granting pensions to officers over whose heads grave charges were impending. But why is that Committee omitted? Is it said that they were not aware of the position in which Mr. Edmunds was placed? On the contrary, I rather imagine that it has been made as clear as day that they, the custodians of the public purse in this matter, were perfectly well informed by public rumour and report of the position in which Mr. Edmunds stood. Why are they not included, then, in this Resolution? I do not intend to enter at any length into this question. If it be thought worthy of further discussion, other persons will do it justice. What I have endeavoured to do is to place before the House the views which occur to me on this particular case. I feel strongly upon it, because I think that the Lord Chancellor has been subjected to most unreasonable and unfriendly criticism for acts which arose out of the purest motives. Under these circumstances I feel convinced that the House will never agree to the indefinite and unintelligible censure which this Motion passes on a man so eminent for his abilities, who is an ornament to the profession to which he belongs, and who in his public station has unquestionably conferred great benefits on the country. I have detained the House at somewhat greater length than I intended, but I shall conclude by moving an Amendment. Though I admit such an Amendment might have come more properly from one who was not a Member of the Committee, yet, as neither my hon. and learned Friend, nor myself, took part in or were present at the deliberation of the Committee, I conceive that I am not bound by the Report, and am free to take such a course. The Amendment which I propose is as follows:—That this House having considered the Report of the Select Committee on the Leeds Bankruptcy Court, and the evidence taken by it, agrees with the Committee in the opinion that the facts which are established acquit the Lord Chancellor from all charge in the matters to which it refers, except that of haste and want of caution in granting a pension to Mr. Wilde; but this House is of opinion 1091 that some further check should be placed by law upon the grant of pensions to the holders of legal offices.As to the latter part of the Amendment, it is not necessary to say much. It is quite plain that it is not convenient that the granting of retiring allowances and the exercise of patronage should be placed in the same hands. The effect of the Amendment is that the Treasury should have a control over these retiring allowances, as they have over superannuations, and it will relieve the administrators of patronage of all misconstructions. Had such an arrangement been in force, it would have been perfectly impossible that such a charge as this should ever have been made against the Lord Chancellor.
To leave out from the first word "That," to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "this House having considered the Report of the Select Committee on the Leeds Bankruptcy Court, and the evidence taken by it, agrees with the Committee in the opinion that the facts which are established acquit the Lord Chancellor from all charge in the matters to which it refers, except that of haste and want of caution in granting a pension to Mr. Wilde; but this House is of opinion that some further check should be placed by Law upon the grant of pensions to the holders of legal offices,"—(The Lord Advocate,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. HENNESSY
said, that the House had now before it two Motions—the Resolution of his hon. Friend the Member for Northamptonshire (Mr. Hunt), and the Amendment, of which notice had been given by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. B. P. Bouverie). The main difference between the two consisted in the circumstance that the Resolution of his hon. Friend set out with the preamble that—The evidence taken before a Committee of this House on the Leeds Bankruptcy Court discloses that a great facility exists for obtaining public appointments by corrupt means.And then went on to declare—That such evidence, and also that taken before a Committee of the House of Lords in the case of Leonard Edmunds, and laid before this House, shows a laxity of practice and want of caution on the part of the Lord Chancellor in sanctioning the grant of retiring pensions to public officers over whose head grave charges are impending, and in filling up the vacancies made by the retirement of such officers, whereby great encouragement has been given to corrupt practices; that such laxity and want of caution, even in the absence of any improper motive, are, in the opinion 1092 of this House, highly reprehensible, and calculated to throw discredit on the administration of the high offices of State.The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. E. P. Bouverie) omitted the paragraph which stated that corrupt practices had existed, for the hon. Member for Northamptonshire did not charge them on the Lord Chancellor.
§ MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! The only subject matters before the House are the original Motion and the Amendment of the Lord Advocate. No other Motion has been put before the House.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Gentleman is not in order in discussing a Motion of which notice has been given, but which is not yet before the House.
§ MR. HENNESSY
said, that the Amendment which the learned Lord had moved on the part of the Government related, as far as he could hear—for no notice had been given of it—only to the case of the Leeds Bankruptcy Court. Not one word was said in it about the Edmunds' case; and the House would have observed that the learned Lord had referred to that case very slightly in his speech, and not at all in his Motion. He (Mr. Hennessy) would take the liberty of recalling the attention of the House to that case, because it was one with which other Members of the Government were mixed up, and, as far as the conduct of Mr. Edmunds was contrasted with that of Mr. Wilde, it was a far worse case than that of the Leeds Bankruptcy Court. The circumstances attending the dismissal of Mr. Edmunds had been dwelt upon by the Report of the other House in language which was almost severe to the Lord Chancellor, and it was worthy of notice that, although that Report was only carried by the casting vote of the Chairman, an Amendment on that Report, which was negatived by the Chairman's casting vote, was much more severe. He found, also, that among the six Peers whose votes negatived that Amendment were the Lord President of the Council, the Duke of Somerset, the Earl of Clarendon, and Lord Stanley of Alderley, so that four out of the six Peers were Members of the Cabinet. He would further endeavour to show that whatever blame was attached to the conduct of the Lord Chancellor in reference to this matter attached equally to many other Members of the Government. One of the gravest accusations against the conduct of the Lord Chancellor was that 1093 he had permitted Mr. Edmunds to resign two offices he held, and to retire with a pension after he had been charged with compounding a felony, and with appropriating public money. Now, who besides the Lord Chancellor knew of these charges against Mr. Edmunds, and of all the proofs which could be adduced in support of them, and yet sanctioned his resignation? In the first place, he would ask the House to listen to what the Attorney General stated before the Lords' Committee as to his knowledge on those points. The Attorney General was examined on the last day of the examination of witnesses before the Lords' Committee, and he informed their Lordships that he was aware of the transactions in which Mr. Edmunds was concerned at an early period. It appeared that in 1862 it was brought to the knowledge of the Attorney General that a clerk in the Patent Office named Smith had appropriated public money to his own use, and that Mr. Edmunds had assisted him in hiding the proofs of his offence. It further appeared from the evidence of the Attorney General that the first Report—the Report of 1863—of Messrs. Greenwood and Hind-march was submitted to him not in his capacity of Commissioner of Patents, but in that of Attorney General, "and," added the Attorney General, "the Lord Chancellor desired me to frame charges upon that Report." He was then asked—You accordingly framed the charges which we have before us?—Yes; it was a sort of notice to show cause. And you were aware that he was summoned to show cause (so to speak) before the Lord Chancellor and two Vice Chancellors?—Yes. You knew the day when it was intended that he should appear, did you not?—I have no doubt I did, but I have not any distinct recollection of it. It was the 1st of August?—Yes. No doubt I knew what day was fixed. Before that day arrived was any communication made to you as to Mr. Edmunds having expressed a wish to be allowed to resign his office on paying all moneys due from him to the Treasury?—I remember that before the time had arrived when the hearing would have taken place, it was mentioned to me by the Lord Chancellor that Mr. Edmunds had proposed at once to give up that office. I do not recollect anything about paying; but I understood that he was to give such an undertaking as would leave the question of subsequent payment entirely unprejudiced by the acceptance of his resignation; that was what I understood at the time. I do not think that the form of any document came under my notice. I wanted to know whether you were consulted as to the propriety of allowing him to resign '—I have no doubt I was. My own personal recollection would hardly have enabled me to say whether the thing was actually resolved upon before it was mentioned to me, or whether it was mentioned to me first; it was about the same time, certainly; but I understand that the Lord Chancellor's re- 1094 collection upon the subject is more distinct than mine. I have no doubt that it was mentioned to me before the resolution to accept the resignation was taken. The Lord Chancellor says that you concurred in opinion with him and the Master of the Rolls that Mr. Edmunds might be permitted to resign, upon his paying his money over?—Yes; I had not the least doubt about it. It appeared to me that exactly the same object was accomplished by his resignation as we had in view— namely, to get him out of the office; and the ulterior question, as to the payment of the money or any further proceedings, appeared to me to be kept precisely as it stood previously; perhaps it was in rather a more favourable position than if there had been a kind of rehearsal of the charges on that occasion, simply for the purpose of dismissing him from that office.There was a very remarkable phrase made use of by the Attorney General in answer to a subsequent question—Our first object was to get rid of him, and we might not have been able to do that for months, perhaps, if we had not accepted his resignation, because he would have had it in his power to make the usual delays which any one can make who is not ready with his defence, and all the time everything would have been in a state of confusion in the office. I daresay I may be wrong; but I cannot present to my mind a case in which, under such circumstances, the object of the dismissal not being criminal justice, but the sole object being to obtain a vacancy in the office, there would have been sufficient reason for insisting upon a form of trial for that purpose, when the man said, I will give you no more trouble about it; I will resign myself.'Therefore they found that the Attorney General supported, and even went beyond the view taken by the Lord Chancellor, that the resignation of Mr. Edmunds was preferable to his dismissal. He would proceed to draw the attention of the House to what the Committee of the Lords said upon the subject. In page 5 of their Report, the Committee said—The Committee are compelled to express their regret that he was allowed to resign, and thereby withdraw himself from the impending inquiry before the Lord Chancellor and the Vice Chancellors. The Attorney General, indeed, stated that in his opinion it was desirable at once to remove Mr. Edmunds from his office, and that the acceptance of this enforced retirement was preferable to the delay which must have taken place in the inquiry. Notwithstanding this high authority, the Committee are still of opinion that the inquiry ought to have proceeded, and if the charges which Mr. Edmunds had been formerly called upon to answer had been proved (as it will be presently seen that in the judgment of the Committee the principal part of them must have been), be should at once have been dismissed, leaving it open to future consideration whether ulterior proceedings ought to be taken against him.It would thus be seen that the Committee differed with the Attorney General and the Lord Chancellor as to the propriety of their 1095 having allowed Mr. Edmunds to resign. So far for the Lord Chancellor and the Attorney General. But was no other Member of the Government cognizant of what was going on? The Lord Chancellor, in his evidence before the Lords' Committee, over and over again said that he had informed the Members of the Cabinet of what he was doing, and that he had consulted the Members of the Government and the Law Officers of the Government as to what course he should pursue in the matter; and, therefore, all the Members of the Government must have been fully aware of all the transactions that had taken place in connection with Mr. Edmunds. One Member of the Government must have been particularly well aware of what was taking place. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, not only as a Member of the Cabinet had heard from the Lord Chancellor what had been going on, but he must have also heard of the transaction at the Treasury, because Mr. Greenwood, the Secretary to the Treasury, and Mr. Hindmarch sent in their reports from time to time to that department. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had also another opportunity of ascertaining all the circumstances of the case; for Mr. William Brougham, in a paper laid before the Committee, made the following extraordinary statement:—When the dreadful discovery, that he had for years been using public money for his private purposes, first came to light, Leman begged me to come up to London to assist and advise. I at once took the journey, and got to London on the 10th of August last. I did all in my power to help, especially by using my influence with Mr. Gladstone, and successfully; from that time forwards, both Lord B. and myself supported Edmunds, contending and fully believing that he had a satisfactory answer to the charges against him.That letter was written long before the public were aware of the dreadful scandals which were then hatching. Mr. William Brougham, acting as the friend of Mr. Edmunds, was striving to get the matter hushed up and to arrange the matter so that Mr. Edmunds might be allowed to resign and not be dismissed; and he strove "successfully," which word, strange to say, was printed in the Report in large capitals —and perhaps to show the ability and zeal with which the Chancellor of the Exchequer had carried out his wishes. However that might be, at all events the Chancellor of the Exchequer must have been perfectly well aware of what was taking 1096 place. But, besides the Lord Chancellor, the Attorney General, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he found that some reference was made in the evidence to the noble Viscount at the head of the Government. In a letter from James Leman to William Brougham, the former suggested that something should be done as speedily as possible to hush up the whole affair— and who was to be applied to in the matter? Mr. Leman said in that letter—It is of the greatest possible consequence that they,"(the Members of the Government),"should be got at without delay, and for this purpose particularly I do entreat you will come to town, and as speedily as possible. In dealing with the Treasury it will be necessary to get at Lord Palmerston; and we do most urgently request your advice and help in the whole case.It was a remarkable fact that but for that letter being laid before the Committee Mr. William Brougham would never have been asked whether he did go to Lord Palmerston in order to get him to hush the matter up. Mr. William Brougham had told them that he had gone to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and had succeeded with him; but there the evidence stopped short, and they were not told whether Mr. William Brougham went to the residence of the noble Viscount, and that the noble Lord showed him the door. This reference to the noble Viscount reminded him that Lord Palmerston was also mentioned in the Leeds inquiry; and upon this point he must say that some inquiry should have been made, not with reference to the noble Viscount, but with reference to some person to whom Mr. Welch said he was to pay the sum of £8,000; but not a single word was asked of Mr. Welch as to whom that mysterious person was. But going back to the Edmunds' case, it appeared that though the Government were fully cognizant of all that had taken place, and that the gravest charges were made against I Mr. Edmunds, that gentleman resigned, but was not dismissed. Then came the! question of the retiring pension on Mr. Edmunds resigning his office as Reading Clerk in the House of Lords. Did the Government know of that retiring pension? In the first place, the Lord Chancellor had very kindly promised Mr. Edmunds to do all in his power, with propriety, to obtain that pension. It was very remarkable he should have done that, for in several letters which were published in the blue-book he endorsed the words of Mr. Greenwood that the charges against Mr. Edmunds were of 1097 a "fearful character;" and the noble and learned Lord himself used the words "compounding a felony" in reference to Mr. Edmunds' case. Not only the Lord Chancellor, but the Government, must have known all about the retiring pension; for two Members of the Cabinet—the Lord Chancellor and the Lord President—were Members of the Committee of the House of Lords which decided pension questions. It was a singular coincidence, that neither of those noble Lords attended the Committee while Mr. Edmunds' pension was under consideration, yet they were both fully aware of what had taken place. Lord Redesdale, another Member of the Committee, subsequently stated that the Committee knew nothing about the charges against Mr. Edmunds when they were deciding on his claim. The Members had heard rumours of charges, but it had been stated that Mr. Edmunds had paid back, not only the amount in which he had been a defaulter, but a still larger sum; and an opinion prevailed that he was very badly treated, inasmuch as he had been got out of his office in the House of Lords for some purpose or other. Every Member of the Committee decided on the question in total ignorance of the criminality. The two Cabinet Ministers who were Members of the Committee did not attend, though they had been regularly summoned. Of course the Lord Chancellor, who had promised to do all he could with propriety to obtain the pension, knew what was taking place in the Committee; and yet the pension was granted in the dark, the Cabinet concealing from the Committee a material fact which it ought to have known. But, in addition to this, did not the fact of the granting of the pension come to the knowldege of Lord Granville the next day? Did it not come to the knowledge of the Chancellor of the Exchequer? [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: How did I know it?] It was in all the papers. Every one knew it. He would be out of order in referring in detail to what had taken place in the House of Lords; but it was perfectly notorious from a debate which had taken place there, that every Member of the Government was aware of the fact of the pension having been granted. And what did the Government do then? Simply nothing. But a Committee of Inquiry was subsequently appointed. Unfortunately for the reputation of the Government there were too many of them on that Committee, for they were all on their trial as well as the Lord 1098 Chancellor; and the Committee adopted a Report condemning what had been done, and acting on that Report, the House of Lords, without the slightest hesitation, withdrew the pension that had been so improperly granted to Mr. Edmunds. The Cabinet and the Law Officers of the Crown were fully conversant with what was taking place, and every word in that Report which condemned the Lord Chancellor applied also to Her Majesty's Government, and every one who agreed with the hon. Gentleman opposite in thinking there was laxity of conduct on the part of the Lord Chancellor, calculated to throw discredit on the administration of the high offices of the State, must feel that Her Majesty's Government share with the Lord Chancellor that serious imputation. Throughout every step of the Edmunds' case the Members of the Cabinet were aware of the circumstances, and the Attorney General was instructed to draw the charges against Mr. Edmunds. He was sorry the learned Attorney General was not in his place, because he (Mr. Hennessy) wished to call the attention of the House to what the learned Attorney General said and did in that House in reference to the Question put to him a short time since in connection with the Leeds Bankruptcy Court by the hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Ferrand). On that occasion his hon. Friend's statements were met with ironical cheers, in consequence of their having been blown to pieces by the answers given by the Attorney General. But what were the circumstances? On the 15th of May the Member for Devonport asked—Whether Mr. Wilde, when Registrar at Leeds, was called upon by one of the Bankruptcy officers to resign his office; whether Mr. Welch was to make way for Mr. Richard Bethell; and whether Mr. R. Bethell's appointment was made out; and whether he attended the Bankruptcy Court at Leeds, and stated to officials that he was appointed registrar?In reply, the Attorney General said—Mr. Wilde was not called upon by any official to resign. As to the alleged arrangement for benefiting the Hon. Richard Bethell, the answer is that no such arrangement was ever made or proposed, or thought of.Whereas, in the blue-book now before the House, they found Mr. Miller, one of the chief officials of the Bankruptcy Court, writing to Mr. Wilde, saying, "You must resign by return of post." So much for the Attorney General's reply to the first question of his hon. Friend. As to his reply to the second question, surely such an ar- 1099 rangement was thought of by Mr. Miller, the Chief Registrar; it wag thought of by Mr. Skirrow, a confidential friend of the Lord Chancellor's family, and a most respectable gentleman; it was thought of by every one around the Lord Chancellor; it was even thought of by the Lord Chancellor himself, though he repented him of the thought. Notwithstanding all that, the reply of the Attorney General was received with ironical cheers from the Government, directed against the hon. Member for Devonport; and, not satisfied with his triumph, the Attorney General came down to the House the next evening and made this statement—With regard to Mr. Bethell, whom I understand to have been on a private visit to Mr. Welch, at Leeds, in February last, Mr. Welch says that Mr. Bethell did not attend at the Leeds Court of Bankruptcy in February or any other time, and all the officials to whom he has spoken deny that Mr. Bethell ever said he was appointed registrar, or that they ever said so; and they add that they do not even know his personal appearance. I may add that I have seen a letter from Mr. Bethell himself substantially to the same effect.Loud cheers from the Government Benches of course greeted the hon. and learned Gentleman for having thus disposed of the statements of the hon. Member for Devon-port. But what did the blue-book say? In the evidence of Mr. Carriss, at page 118, there was a very significant commentary on the replies of the Attorney General. Among the questions and answers in Mr. Carriss' examination were the following:—Do you remember on Friday, the 24th of February, attending the Court before Mr. Registrar Welch?—I do. Did anything take place between you and Mr. Welch on that day, with reference to himself or Mr. Bethell, and if so, be kind enough to state what it was?—Yes. Mr. Welch asked me on that day if I bad any objection to adjourn business which was standing for the following week, to the Friday in that week, in order that it might come before Mr. Bethell, as he himself was going to London, and Mr. Bethell was to have the appointment of registrar at the Bankruptcy Court at Leeds. Was it mentioned at all when Mr. Bethell would be at Leeds, or when he would take the business there?—Yes, on the Friday following the 24th of February, which would be the 3rd of March. Who told you that?—Mr. Welch asked me if I would adjourn the business I have mentioned till that day, in order that it might come before Mr. Bethell. Was the matter talked of in Leeds generally?—Yes, certainly; and I saw Mr. Bethell in court that day. Did Mr. Welch state that to you as a positive certainty, or merely as a possibility?—I did not understand it as a possibility; I understood that although Mr. Welch himself did not say he had got the appointment in London, he said he was going to London, but I understood 1100 it as certain that Mr. Bethell had got the appointment at Leeds.The House would, therefore, remark that it was on the authority of Mr. Welch and Mr. Bethell, in support of his own statement, that the Attorney General so flatly contradicted the hon. Member for Devon-port. Neither did Mr. Welch agree with the Attorney General; for, in page 85 of the blue-book, there was a letter from Mr. Welch to Mr. Miller, in which he said—My dear Sir,—I take the liberty to write to you as the Lord Chancellor's minister in these matters. I have been expecting to hear from you with my appointment to the London Court in the Hon. S. Bethell's place, and which I was informed on this day week that the Lord Chancellor had that morning been kind enough to transfer to me. The Hon. Richard Bethell was here with me on last Friday and Saturday, and he told several of the Chancellor's having appointed me to London, and that he himself was to succeed me here.So that, in fact, every word stated by his hon. Friend the Member for Devonport was true, and every allegation made by the Attorney General was untrue. But it did not end there. On the 18th of May the hon. Member for Devonport asked the Attorney General—Whether he would lay upon the table the letters of Mr. Welch, the registrar, which he had read to the House on Tuesday last, as well as the letters of the Hon. Richard Bethell confirming the same.What was the reply of the late Attorney General?—I decline to produce them. I wholly decline, on my own responsibility, to produce them. Upon my own responsibility and good faith I gave to the House the information I had acquired from what I considered to be the proper quarter.Again there was great cheering; but now it turned out that the whole of the information supplied to the hon. and learned Gentleman was false. He (Mr. Hennessy) would only observe that before the Attorney General so flatly contradicted a Member of that House, he ought to be more particular about his sources of information, If he had only spoken to Mr. Miller, or if he had taken the slightest trouble to inquire, he might have found that the statement of the hon. Member for Devonport was true, and that his own allegations were untrue. Now, it appeared that Her Majesty's Government were fully alive to the iniquity of the Edmunds' case, and yet allowed him to resign and subsequently receive a pension. It appeared, also, that the Lord Chancellor, not only made Her Majesty's Government fully 1101 aware of the proceedings in which he acted with great wisdom, but it also appeared, from his own evidence, that he himself did not peruse the charges against Mr. Edmunds. His Lordship stated, that as he might have to act judicially when the case came before him, and dismiss him, he accordingly avoided looking into the case; he handed it over to the Law Officers of the Crown, and the charges were prepared by the Attorney General; and, therefore, it appeared to him (Mr. Hennessy) that so far as the Lord Chancellor's personal conduct was concerned in that case, the other Members of the Government had acted quite as badly as the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack. Therefore, under the circumstances, he should be glad when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kilmarnock's Amendment came before the House. He should vote for that in preference to the Motion of his hon. Friend the Member for Northamptonshire.
§ MR. DENMAN
said, that since he had the honour of a seat in that House he had never risen to address it under a sense of deeper responsibility or with deeper pain; because he considered it one of the most important questions that had come before the House during his time, affecting the character not only of the Government, but of public men generally. The question had been brought forward by the hon, Member for Northamptonshire (Mr. Hunt) in a tone and spirit highly creditable to him and becoming its great importance. At the same time it was all the more incumbent upon the House to be wary lest, owing to the very moderation of the tone and temper of the hon. Gentleman, they should be led to adopt a Resolution that might inflict the gravest and crudest injustice upon the person against whom it was directed. There was, perhaps, no man in that House who personally had less reason to rise and defend the Lord Chancellor. He had scarcely any acquaintance with him, except that arising from a formal introduction as a member of the profession, and the only occasion on which his public duty had brought him into close relations with the noble and learned Lord in that House was once when, with that haste and violence of manner which did not render him a popular Member of that House, the noble and learned Lord, then Attorney General, told him that a certain claim which he (Mr. Denman) advocated, and upon which he contended the House 1102 ought to appoint a Committee, ought not to be brought forward to trouble the House as often as "any young lawyer" could be found to take it up. Now, a man who had been struggling fifteen or sixteen years at the Bar did not like to be called "any young lawyer"; but that was his closest experience of the Lord Chancellor. When, however, the present Resolution was brought forward he considered it his bounden duty, and that of all who were in the habit of examining testimony, to read and study from beginning to end the evidence on which this charge rested. The other night, when the matter was brought forward in an unfair way, he thought it his duty to stand up for the Committee whose Report to the House had been prematurely discussed. That Committee had been selected in the fairest manner; three of the Members sat on the Opposition side of the House and two on the Ministerial side, and they were assisted by two Gentlemen skilled in the examination of evidence, but not allowed to vote. The Report of such a Committee was entitled to the highest respect. The question was now brought forward again in another shape—in a shape that was objectionable on every ground. It was, in the first place, very difficult, if not impossible, to know what the Resolution meant; and in the next place it was so framed as by its apparent moderation to catch as many votes as possible, and yet so framed as if it were carried against the Lord Chancellor to make it impossible for him to continue to occupy his seat on the Woolsack for a single hour. The Government met the Resolution by another. He wished they had met it by a direct negative. He would rather have so met it, because he believed it to be unjust, untrue, and brought forward in an unfair spirit, with the objects to which he had alluded. The Resolution contained three heads. The first was—That the evidence taken before the Committee on the Leeds Bankruptcy Court discloses that a great facility exists for obtaining public appointments by corrupt means;Now, he asserted fearlessly that the result of the examination before the Leeds Committee showed that no such facility did exist; but that, on the contrary, there was great difficulty in obtaining appointments by such means. Such an assertion was unjust to the holders of public offices, to the Government, and to the Lord Chancellor, as far as anything appeared to the contrary in the Report of the Leeds 1103 Committee. The hon. Member for Northamptonshire (Mr. Hunt) disclaimed a desire to attack any one but the Lord Chancellor; but the House saw the cloven foot in the mild and moderate statement of the hon. Gentleman; and it was still more plainly displayed by the hon. Member for the King's County (Mr. Hennessy), who might be called—more fairly than any one upon the Benches opposite, except perhaps the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bucks—the true leader of the Opposition. That hon. Gentleman had during this Session made more speeches, argued more points in debate, was oftener in his place, and conducted the attack upon the Government ten times more frequently than the right hon. Gentleman himself. And now, the hon. Gentleman said that the evidence upon the Edmunds' case affected not only the Lord Chancellor, but the head of the Government, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the Attorney General. Well, but if that were the case, ought not hon. Gentlemen opposite to move a direct vote of censure upon the whole of the Government, and not by a side-wind to enable the real leader of the Opposition to come forward and make a covert attack upon the Government at large? The hon. Member for Northamptonshire laid very little stress upon the Edmunds' case; and now that some weeks had elapsed since the Committee on that case had reported, it was rather too late, and, indeed, unfair, to slip into a Motion brought forward apropos of the Leeds Report an allusion to the Edmunds' case, contained in a book as thick as the Leeds inquiry, and which, he would venture to say, not one hon. Member in a hundred had read through. The second assertion in the Resolution was as false as the first. It was—That such evidence and also that taken before a Committee of the House of Lords in the case of Leonard Edmunds shows a laxity of practice and want of caution on the part of the Lord Chancellor in sanctioning the grant of retiring pensions to public officers over whose heads grave charges are impending, and in filling up the vacancies made by the retirement of such officers, whereby great encouragement has been given to corrupt practices.He would admit that there were scraps and glimpses of truth about this part of the Resolution. ["Hear!"] Was it to be permitted that the House sitting as a Court of Justice was to laugh and treat such matters as trifles? He would undertake to show that in this case there was made against the Lord Chancellor a charge far in excess of any cen- 1104 sure he might have deserved, and if this House were to accept it they would overrule the Report of the Committee. ["Hear!"] He was prepared for jeers, for he knew how difficult it was for that House to act judicially; but he trusted there were men on the other side who would feel themselves bound to decide in a spirit of justice. The second part of the Resolution declared that there were—Laxity of practice and want of caution on the part of the Lord Chancellor in sanctioning the grant of retiring pensions to public officers over whose heads grave charges are impending, and in filling up the vacancies made by the retirement of such officers, whereby great encouragement has been given to corrupt practices.Now, he would venture to say that in almost every particular that second charge was false. With regard to the Edmunds' case, that might be very soon disposed of. When the hon. Member for Northamptonshire spoke about the Edmunds' case, all he said was that he thought the Lord Chancellor had allowed the pension to be given without stating the facts, and that he was highly reprehensible for so doing. Now, the hon. and learned Member for the King's County had sought to couple with the Lord Chancellor the names of other persons. That other persons took the same view of the case as the Lord Chancellor was a ground not for attack on them but of defence for him. When the Lord Chancellor was supported by the Attorney General and by a learned Judge of the Court of Chancery, whose relations with the Lord Chancellor were commonly said not to be of a very friendly nature, when the Master of the Rolls, who was a man of the highest character, took a view of the Edmunds' case substantially the same as the Lord Chancellor's, this showed the injustice of the attack that was made upon the noble and learned Lord. His hon. and learned Friend had picked out a letter for the purpose of showing that all the Members of the Government were in pari delicto with the Lord Chancellor; and that was a sample of the way in which men's characters might he blown away in a matter like this, in which hon. Gentlemen could not be expected to go over all the documents letter by letter. His hon. and learned Friend read this passage:—"It is of the greatest possible consequence that they should be got at without delay," and he commented on it by saying that "they" meant the Government. [Mr. HENNESSY: No; I said Lord Palmerston. Read on!] The hon. Gentleman 1105 certainly said "the Government," because he (Mr. Denman) interrupted him at the time, and he had the strongest recollection of it. Now, that passage was contained in a letter from Mr. Leman to Mr. Brougham, and the passage immediately before the one which his hon. and learned Friend had quoted contained the following words: —"Lords C. and K. may very probably commit themselves to an immediate and unfavourable opinion, thereby effecting irretrievable ruin;" and therefore Mr. Leman says "It is of the greatest possible consequence that they should be got at without delay." So that it was Lords Cranworth and Kingsdown that were to be got at, and yet that passage had been read by his hon. and learned Friend to show that the Government were in pari delicto with the Lord Chancellor. His hon. and learned Friend had also the boldness to cite Mr. Welch, whose evidence was tainted in every possible way, to show that he had lent a thousand pounds to a relative of the noble Lord [Mr. HENNESSY: I said it ought to be inquired into.] It was competent for his hon. and learned Friend to move for a Committee of Inquiry next Session if he thought so; but upon such a base suspicion it was an unworthy thing to assume that there was any complicity between the Government and the Lord Chancellor, if the Lord Chancellor had done anything wrong. But it was idle to go into such arguments as these, and the hon. and learned Gentleman merely alluded to them in the capacity which he had lately filled of leader of the Opposition. Having said quite enough about that, he would appeal to the Report of the Committee itself on the Edmunds' case. Nothing could be stronger than the finding of that Committee acquitting the Lord Chancellor. Looking to what had since occurred it was a misfortune that the Lord Chancellor had not taken a stern, unpitying, and what some might call a cruel view of that case. But, at all events, in accordance with the opinions of the Master of the Rolls, of Lord Cranworth, and Lord Kingsdown, and of several Members of the Government, the Lord Chancellor did not think it his duty to go further into the matter of the Edmunds' case. They, as well as the Committee who investigated the case, felt that they had got rid of a bad public servant, and that there was no use in going any farther into the case for the purpose of raking up the misconduct of an unhappy public servant who, in consequence of his 1106 misdeeds, had lost his situation. It was not, therefore, necessary for that House to go one whit beyond the finding of the Committee of the House of Lords. They would be not only acting wrongly, but discourteously towards the other House of Parliament if they were now to overhaul the decision of a Committee of the Upper House. He would now make a few observations on the Report of the Leeds Committee, and he apprehended that the Resolution was quite as false with regard to that as to the Edmunds' Committee. The Resolution stated that the evidence "shows laxity of practice and want of caution." It was said that Mr. Welch obtained his office at Leeds by corrupt means, because he paid a sum of money to Mr. Bethell; but the evidence proved nothing of the kind. Mr. Welch produced testimonials to his character and ability such as no Judge on the Bench would have hesitated to act upon. He had testimonials from Mr. Temple, the leader of the Northern Circuit; from Mr. Edward James, who ranked next; Mr. Manisty, who had a large business there; and Mr. Udall. These were four gentlemen whose words would be taken as strictly accurate. He (Mr. Denman) had seen these gentlemen since; and, of course, knowing what had since happened, one and all of them regretted that they had given these testimonials, but they had all assured him that at the time they knew enough of the man to know that what they said of him was well deserved. To say, as the hon. Member for Northamptonshire had said, that those were testimonials which any barrister on any circuit would get, was a deliberate insult to the leaders of every circuit, who would give no such testimonials unless they believed what they said to be true. Then it was said that the Lord Chancellor should not have made this appointment, because Mr. Bethell once said something in favour of Mr. Welch. Now, however much a father might disapprove the scampishness of his son, was he, when a man's name was mentioned to him by the son, at once to jump to the uncharitable conclusion that the man must have his son deeply in his books, and that it was upon that account only he had recommended him for the situation? But that, after all, was the gravamen of the charge against the Lord Chancellor as regarded the appointment of Mr. Welch. Surely in this respect the Lord Chancellor had ample justification for his conduct; and if he was to be judged 1107 fairly, and not by insinuations, doubts, and inferences, he was entitled not only to an acquittal but an honourable acquittal at the hands of this House. The next point to which the hon. Member referred was the resignation of Mr. Wilde. Now, he had looked carefully into the papers on this subject, and the evidence respecting it was supplied in what he must call the candid statement of the Lord Chancellor himself. The Lord Chancellor admitted that he felt there was a painful inconsistency in calling upon a man to show cause why he should not be dismissed, and in afterwards letting him retire upon a pension. This was the strongest point against the Lord Chancellor; yet, after all, it amounted to very little. The hon. Member said, Mr. Hey's certificate was unsatisfactory. Certainly, if the surgeon's certificate was looked at upon special demurrer with a very critical eye, it could not be thought satisfactory. But reading it in good faith, might not even an acute man be deceived by it? The certificate as to the failure of his vision was dated"28th July, 1864,"and went on to say—"I hereby certify that I have been consulted by Mr. H. S. Wilde." Surely any person reading that would understand from it that he (Mr. Hey) had been consulted at that time by Mr. Wilde. It would never have occurred to him (Mr. Denman) to suppose that this medical man had never been consulted except a long time before by Mr. Wilde. It was true, as was subsequently disclosed, that Mr. Wilde had consulted him as far back as August, 1863; but there was nothing in the certificate to show that he had discontinued consulting him between that period and July, 1864. Now, it was stated that the Lord Chancellor had had his attention called to that certificate; but that assertion rested upon the testimony of Mr. Miller, who was contradicted over and over again by more than one witness as well as by Mr. Miller himself. Now, he apprehended, if they were called upon to decide as to which of the parties was telling the truth, they would naturally take those witnesses against whose veracity there had never been any impeachment. Well, then, if they were to act upon this principle in the present case, they must believe that the Lord Chancellor did not see that certificate. It was said that the omission of the Lord Chancellor to read the certificate was of itself a very grave offence. If so, it was an offence committed every day by the fifteen Judges who sat on the other 1108 side of Westminster Hall; for they constantly decided motions founded on affidavits referring to documents annexed thereto, and drew up their orders without reading the affidavits or documents, trusting to the accuracy and fairness of counsel. That was the offence for which the Lord Chancellor was charged to-night with a high misdemeanor. In Mr. Miller's position it would have been his duty to read the certificate, and state whether it was regular; it would not necessarily be the duty of the Lord Chancellor to read such certificate himself. But the certificate was a mere scrap in the case, in the presence of the petition and affidavit upon which the Lord Chancellor acted. These were drawn up most improperly by Mr. Miller, who had evidently set his heart upon doing the thing almost by a trick; and this was just the man who would be likely to place the documents before the Lord Chancellor in such a manner as to prevent him from exercising his judgment upon them. The petition and affidavit stated, on the oath of Mr. Wilde, that he was afflicted by the failure of his sight, and that this affliction was now so serious that he was no longer able satisfactorily to discharge the duties of his office, reference being made to the medical certificate annexed. What was the Lord Chancellor to do upon such evidence? The hon. Gentleman said that there was contradictory evidence upon this point, and called attention to the evidence of Mr. Miller, who said that the Lord Chancellor stated he was of opinion that, "coupling the language in the petition, and the affidavit, and the medical certificate together, there was a sufficient case to enable him to make the order." The Lord Chancellor did not contradict this statement point blank. His Lordship's evidence upon this was—I have no recollection of any such thing. The petition, affidavit, and certificate were presented to me, and I ought in strictness to have read them all; I do not think that I did. I probably looked at the petition and saw the allegation, and I may have assumed that the medical certificate was in conformity with it.So ought the Judges in Westminster Hall in strictness to read every document before making their orders; but they were not in the practice of doing so, unless they had reason to believe that something was wrong. They almost invariably acted upon the information of counsel or the officers of the Court, and no one ever thought of blaming them for the course which they 1109 pursued. If the Lord Chancellor, not only assumed that the medical certificate was in conformity with the petition and allegation, but was also, as was very probable, informed by Mr. Miller that such was the case, he could not see that—Such laxity and want of caution were, in the opinion of this House, highly reprehensible, and calculated to throw discredit on the administration of the high officers of State.He would now ask the House if there was anything reprehensible in the mode adopted by the Lord Chancellor of filling up the vacancy caused by the retirement of Mr. Edmunds as charged in the former part of the Resolution. Mr. Slingsby Bethell who was appointed to the post was the second son of the Lord Chancellor. That gentleman had filled the office of registrar with the highest credit, and that fact had indeed been admitted by the hon. Member for Northamptonshire himself. [Mr. HUNT: Hear, hear!] If the House laid down a rule forbidding such appointments, they would establish a rule forbidding a practice which had always existed, and which would be contrary to the known aspirations of Lord Chancellors appointed by either side of the House for hundreds of years; because Lord Chancellors had always looked forward to exercising the valuable patronage intrusted to them for the benefit of their relations and friends, if those relations and friends were qualified to perform the duties of the offices to which they were appointed. The duties of Mr. Edmunds' office were not very onerous. They consisted partly in reading documents, and he believed the hon. Gentleman would acknowledge the documents were read by Mr. Slingsby Bethell as well, if not better, than they were ever read in the House of Lords or any other place, where duties of a similar nature were to be discharged. The Resolution proposed by the hon. Member for Northamptonshire was, however, as direct a censure upon the appointment of Mr. Slingsby Bethell as it was upon that of Mr. Welch. His hon. Friend had in his speech referred to the question of a "plot," the object of which was to place Mr. Richard Bethell in the Leeds Court; but upon that part of the case the defence of his hon. and learned Friend the Lord Advocate had been complete. It was true that, after a solemn determination never again to appoint Mr. Richard Bethell to any employment whatsoever, the Lord Chancellor appeared for a moment 1110 to relent; but how? The terms which he suggested might be regarded as absolutely impossible, for they were nothing short of an entire release of Mr. Richard Bethell by his creditors. They heard that that gentleman's debts amounted to £20,000, and they heard also of some attempt on the part of Mr. Skirrow to procure his release; but there was not a particle of evidence in the Report to show that Mr. Skirrow ever could or did come to the Lord Chancellor and, after stating that all matters had been settled, ask him to re-consider the question of an appointment upon these grounds. Beyond that statement about a release, the Lord Chancellor had positively refused to give his son a vacancy, and that notwithstanding the fact that the pain and sorrow which he naturally felt was increased by the representations of his nearest and dearest friends, who told him that his conduct towards his son was unnecessarily harsh. But the hon. Member for Northamptonshire attributed the final decision of the Lord Chancellor upon this matter to an article which appeared on the 25th of February in a newspaper, although he did not name the newspaper to which he referred. But he did not, in fact, alter his tone between those dates, for he always said the same thing. The Lord Chancellor discovered, however, between the 22nd and the 26th of February that his son, after all his promises, had been again gambling at Paris—for he believed it was nothing worse—and, on ascertaining this fact, his Lordship not only determined to give no appointment to Mr. Richard Bethell, but was angry with Mr. Skirrow and Mr. Miller for saying a word in his favour. It should be remembered, too, that from May, 1864, the Lord Chancellor bad absolutely refused to see his son. The conditions imposed by the Lord Chancellor were, as he had said, nearly impossible; but, supposing for a moment that they had been effected, would the hon. Gentleman say that the Lord Chancellor ought to have refused his son an appointment, because he had compounded with his creditors? His hon. Friend might be right in his argument; but it would be laying down a rule of strict morality which would reflect upon Members even of that House, who in former days had failed, or whose youthful follies had clung round their necks like the Old Man of the Sea. Such a rule would, to Sindbad, be a cruel one to men now the ornaments of the party in whose favour 1111 they made speeches and recorded their vote. It would, in fact, be regarding a man who had once been encumbered with debt as a rogue in all matters. He might remind the House that Mr. Richard Bethell had discharged the duties of his office in an efficient manner. On that ground Mr. Miller had stated in his evidence that there was no cause for his dismissal. Though he had never met Mr. Richard Bethell more than once, no one could be in that gentleman's society without perceiving that there was no want of ability on his part to prevent him from performing the duties of any such office as those to which it was said that he was to be appointed. There was one circumstance which the hon. Member for Northamptonshire laid stress on, and which he should hardly have thought that any one would have pointed to as a proof of misconduct on the part of the Lord Chancellor. The hon. Member contrasted the Lord Chancellor's statement that he had not the least knowledge that Mr. Welch had lent money to Mr. Bethell before the appointment was made, with the answer, which the noble and learned Lord gave to the Question—"If your Lordship had been aware of it, would the appointment have been made?" Well, a dishonest man would have said, "Certainly not;" but, as the case had not arisen, the Lord Chancellor said, "It is difficult to say what I should have done, but I think I should not have appointed him." The hon. Member quoted that as a suspicious matter against the Lord Chancellor, whereas it was evident that the noble and learned Lord wished to give a scrupulous answer, intimating that he could not reply to a hypothetical question. The last Resolution—That such laxity and want of caution, even in the absence of any improper motive, are, in the opinion of this House, highly reprehensible, and calculated to throw discredit on the administration of the high offices of the State,was undoubtedly proposed with the view of forcing the Lord Chancellor to resign, if it should be carried. But that Resolution ought to be read in connection with the particular cases mentioned in the two preceding Resolutions, and being so read, it was an unjust and unfair Resolution. If the hon. Gentleman or the hon. Member for the King's County could have pointed out any facts proving that the Lord Chancellor had been guilty of anything like gross misconduct, he would have been ready to vote for the Motion; but he trusted that the House would not, by a party vote, insist 1112 upon driving from office an illustrious Judge and a great law reformer on account of certain errors of judgment, only such as many others had committed.
§ MR. E. P. BOUVERIE
Sir, I have given notice of an Amendment to the Motion of the hon. Member for Northamptonshire, which, in consequence of the Lord Advocate having proposed another Amendment, I am now precluded from moving; but should the Motion of the hon. Member for Northamptonshire be negatived—as I trust it will be—the question for the House to decide will be what words should be substituted, and I shall then propose my Resolution. Hon. Gentlemen who, with me, are on this side of the House stand in a different position from that of the hon. Members opposite. They cannot be expected to place any confidence in Her Majesty's Government; but, as forming Her Majesty's Opposition, they may be expected to be willing to express want of confidence in them. But Gentlemen on this side of the House cannot be included in the same category, and I, for one, during the whole of this Parliament now about to expire, have placed my confidence in the present Government, and have been in the habit of supporting them by my votes and voice. I must, however, make one exception in regard to my confidence in Her Majesty's Government, and must distinctly declare that I have no confidence in the Lord Chancellor's administration of his high office. Such, I think, must he the feeling of everybody reading the evidence taken by the Committee, respecting the Leeds Bankruptcy Court, with an impartial desire to arrive at a sound conclusion. I put aside all question of corruption, and I think the Resolution of the hon. Member for Northamptonshire objectionable because— though not perhaps explicitly—it does more or less mix up the Lord Chancellor with the corruption which, undoubtedly, exists among other people. Now, the Committee which was as impartially nominated as any Committee could be, came to the conclusion that no imputation of personal corruption could be made against the Lord Chancellor with respect to the appointment of Mr. Welch. I concur in that conclusion, and I trust the House will also concur in it. I must admit that the facts as originally laid before the House looked ugly enough, and were calculated to cast a suspicion on the great head of the law; but the examination of the case by the Committee fairly dispelled those imputations; 1113 and I understand that the hon. Member for Northamptonshire himself stated, whatever inference might be drawn from his Motion, that he did not intend to impute any personal corruption to the Lord Chancellor. [Mr. HUNT: Hear, hear!] There were two questions which the Committee had to consider—one, the imputation of corruption; and the other, whether in the administration of his high office the Lord Chancellor paid that proper regard to the public interest which we expect to be shown by a high officer of State; and I must say that the Resolution mixes up the two questions, and does not call on the House to find a distinct verdict with regard to each of them. In my judgment the Lord Chancellor must be honourably acquitted of any personal corruption; but there were corrupt practices under him, connected with his office of a gross and vile character, which the House should condemn; and this is another reason why I object to the Resolution, because it contains no distinct declaration that those corrupt practices were going on. No one could read the evidence and compare the dates of the occurrences without arriving at the conclusion that there was a corrupt agreement between parties below the Lord Chancellor with respect to the office of registrar of the Bankruptcy Court at Leeds. There is a misprint in the Report, the correction of which makes the case stronger. It is stated in the Report that on the 16th of April, 1864, Mr. Welch wrote to the Lord Chancellor pressing his former requests; whereas it appears from the evidence that the real date of the letter was the 30th of April, and the date of the check for £500, proved to have been post-dated a few days, was the 6th of May. Mr. Welch became aware at the time that Mr. Bethell was likely to leave his office. Mr. Bethell fixed that date himself as a fortnight before his own resignation, which would be just concurrently with the giving of this check—so that the evidence of a corrupt agreement is as strong as possible. But is not, I would ask, the fact of such corruption notorious? Notoriety, however, it will be said, is no evidence; but, then, if we are at all to listen to rumours current throughout society in London, we can have no doubt that this is not a solitary case. And what, let me ask, is the result of such a state of things so far as the public is concerned? What honest or honourable man can, under such cir- 1114 cumstances, have reason to believe that he may trust to his own character and services to obtain office, and who will risk office, who relies upon his merits alone to ground his claim? I could not help being reminded, when I read of those things, of lines applied by one of our English satirists to times of notorious corruption —When men like these,' the patriot cries,To honours and employments rise,I ask no favour, seek no place,From such, employment is disgrace.'I am not, I may add, at this point about to enter into any special pleading about, the minutiae of evidence. I leave that to those Gentlemen who have got a brief for the defence, and who may be prepared to throw doubt and suspicion on many features of the case. To my mind the main allegation that there was gross corruption connected with these offices is not to be shaken, although the Lord Chancellor may not have been directly cognizant of the fact. Now, when, forsooth, we suppose that we are purer than our ancestors a new mode of obtaining pensions from the public has been discovered. Bribe a Lord Chancellor's son or brother with money or promises of money; thus obtain the office you desire, then rob the public, or wink at its being robbed by others; then get found out as party to this malversation and you may apply to a facile Lord Chancellor for a retiring allowance, and in that way you may obtain from the public a pension. In my opinion, whatever we may think in doors, these things going on round the Woolsack have a great effect on the public mind. Men are shocked to find that transactions which took place in times connected with our past and least satisfactory annals can possibly exist in our own day. Take the officers of the Leeds Court of Bankruptcy—Messrs. Wilde and Payne. We now know that they did not perform their duty, and that the money which ought to have gone into the public purse was appropriated by the officers of that court. Accounts were certified as having been examined when no examination took place, and as having been audited when there was really no audit at all; the proceedings of those officers being wound up by their borrowing money of others subordinate to them whom it was their business to superintend. Now, whatever colour anybody may try to put upon the matter, these were gross malpractices deserving of the censure 1115 of this House. Payne's case, to which the Lord Advocate referred, was fully as bad as that of Mr. Wilde's. He was guilty of exactly the same offence, and was treated in exactly the same way. After having been called upon to show cause why he should not be dismissed from his office, because he could not adequately account for his malpractices, he receives a mild suggestion that he should retire. He is summoned before the Lord Chancellor to say why he should not be dismissed, and in the next moment he receives a suggestion that it is expedient he should retire —that retirement meaning that he should receive a pension from the public. Upon this point Mr. Miller was very distinct. He states, that in case of those officers who had given no satisfactory account whatever as to why they had permitted the malpractices to which I have referred in respect to accounts which they were bound to superintend the suggestion of a retirement on pensions came from the Lord Chancellor himself. The Lord Chancellor, however, does not appear to have recollected this circumstance. I do not wish to rest this statement merely upon my own assertion. In answer to a question put by Mr. Bovill the Lord Chancellor said that this must have been a mistake on the part of Mr. Miller, and that he could hardly have understood what he said. "I most unquestionably," he adds, "gave Mr. Miller no sort of authority to say anything to Mr. Wilde on the subject of his retirement." Then Mr. Miller also states that he had drawn the attention of the Lord Chancellor to the unsatisfactory nature of the certificate with regard to Mr. Wilde's health; but upon that point also the Lord Chancellor says he has no recollection. Now, I would here observe that I, for one, have no confidence whatsoever in the memory of the Lord Chancellor. Upon this point I do not come to a decision solely from the immediate inquiry under our notice, but also from what occurred in the Edmunds' case before the Committee of the House of Lords. It was important for that Committee to ascertain whether the statement made by Mr. Leman, to the effect that he had an interview with the Lord Chancellor on or about the 8th of November, in which he said the noble and learned Lord distinctly told him that if Mr. Edmunds wished to retire on a pension he would have no objection, was or was not correct. The Lord Chancellor hesitated when questioned upon the point, and said— 1116I do not believe I ever sent for Mr. Leman except on the 4th of October.When asked whether the interview had not taken place on the 8th of November, his answer was—Mr. Leman's memory some years ago was much better than lately. I have no recollection of sending for Mr. Leman at that time, nor do I think I did so.Now, the Lord Chancellor's memory, with respect to thi3 interview, appears to me to have been extremely treacherous, for Mr. Leman, in answer to a subsequent question which was put to him, said—Having seen the statement of the Lord Chancellor this morning, I looked over my papers and found one dated the 6th of November, fixing a meeting with him for the next morning.I contend, therefore, that we ought to prefer the positive statement of Mr. Miller, confused and unsatisfactory as it appears to be, to one which rests solely on the recollection of the Lord Chancellor. And I maintain that in this instance the noble and learned Lord has been guilty of a dereliction of duty in giving to the officers in question a retiring pension without any inquiry into the malfeasances which were brought to light. If, however, this was the only case against the noble and learned Lord, the grant of these retiring pensions might be attributed to haste; but how is it possible to get over the case of Mr. Edmunds? Is it not startling to think that the Lord High Chancellor of England, knowing this man to be a public defaulter of the very worst description, and that he had been robbing the public year after year, should allow him to come before the House of Lords, and present a petition to that august body for a pension, and say nothing of the defalcations and delinquencies within his special knowledge of this man. I am not led away by party spirit in this matter, and I ask, is it possible to say that the country can have confidence for the future in the mode in which the Lord Chancellor deals with these matters? Can we feel as certain as we should do with regard to many members of that honourable and learned profession that the same circumstances would not happen again with that noble and learned Lord still holding that great post—supposing this House to be willing to condone these acts? I say that I am not satisfied, and I could not feel satisfied that at any time something fresh would not be discovered which would shock us quite as much as these things have done. Well, what is 1117 the meaning of the Amendment of my right hon. Friend the Lord Advocate? Why, that there has been a little haste on the Lord Chancellor's part. A little haste ! I say there was something worse than haste in the manner in which he neglected his bounden duty to the public. And then, forsooth, the Lord Advocate suggests that a change is required in the law. I say that the law itself is a perfectly right and good law, if it were only properly administered. You must trust some one to execute these high functions, and who is to be trusted unless it is the person who occupies the high and important post of Lord Chancellor? What possible check can you have—quis custodiet ipsos custodes—if the Lord Chancellor cannot be trusted properly to discharge this public duty? Sir, I will not detain the House at this late hour in the evening, but I say that this is a question of confidence in the Lord Chancellor, and after what has passed I beg leave to affirm, for myself, that I have no confidence in him. I doubt whether he is a proper person to fill these high offices. His ability none of us dispute. Many of us have been witnesses of it here, and we shall all agree that it is of the first order. But what is the value of that ability unless it is guided by sound discretion—and is possessed by a man in whom we can place confidence—a man who will duly discharge those grave duties which have nothing to do with his political functions, but which are committed to him for the benefit of the country?
§ MR. HUNT
Sir, the Lord Advocate having moved an Amendment, I believe I am entitled to make an observation. I do not rise to occupy the time of the House by going again into matters with which I fear I have already wearied the House too much; but my right hon. Friend opposite (Mr. Bouverie) having intimated his intention of moving an Amendment, of the terms of which he gave notice early in the evening, in case my Resolution should be negatived, all I have to say is that his Amendment entirely expresses my own views, and the views which I believe I have expressed in the remarks that I made at the opening of the debate. And as I understand that my right hon. Friend opposite and certain other Members think the words which I have placed on the paper do not with sufficient explicitness exonerate the Lord Chancellor from the imputation of personal corruption, I am sure the House will feel that I did so in 1118 my speech. If there is any ambiguity in my Resolution, I am certainly desirous that there should be none; and I am, therefore, perfectly willing to allow my Motion to be negatived in order to let in the Motion of my right hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock, which I shall have much pleasure in supporting.
§ MR. HOWES
, as the Chairman of the Committee, rose to express his strong approval of the course just taken by the hon. Member for Northamptonshire, in accepting the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kilmarnock. The announcement which that hon. Member makes relieves that part of the House (the Opposition) from the possibility of what might be a serious imputation—namely, the possibility of its being supposed that that Motion rested upon a party basis. It relieved himself personally, and also he believed several other Members of the Committee, from some difficulty; for some of them could not have agreed to the Motion as it originally stood. The Committee were absolutely unanimous in all their resolutions and decisions—there was no one point on which they differed, setting aside those minute shades of difference which must arise when almost any question has to be considered by different minds. He would only make one reference to what took place last week. He had left London, as other Members of the Committee had done, feeling certain that no notice whatever could be taken of that matter until the evidence was printed; and he regretted deeply that any notice of it whatever had then been taken.
begged to call his hon. Friend to order. He was referring to a past debate, and that was the more unjust as the hon. Member for Mallow (Mr. Longfield) was not in his place.
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, the hon. Member had not made a reference to a former debate in the sense of animadverting or commenting upon it, but had only mentioned it as a fact that had taken place.
§ MR. HOWES
would then only say that he cordially agreed with the terms of the Motion as proposed by the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock, who expressed fully the sentiment of the Committee. But he could not agree with the Amendment of his right hon. Friend the Lord Advocate, because it simply echoed so much of the Report as acquitted the Lord Chancellor, and took no notice whatever of that part which condemned him. The part of the Report which condemned him was that which stated that the grave duty was imposed upon him of seeing that certain facts were ascertained, that the person on whom that duty was laid was no less a person than the Lord Chancellor of England, that the object for which that duty was imposed was the public good, but that that duty was not done. It seemed to him that, having said so much, whether they used the word "haste," or "want of caution," or "negligence," they had said all that was needful, and that the same High Officer having been guilty of neglect of a similar kind in the case of Mr. Edmunds, it was absolutely necessary that some notice should be taken by the House of that dereliction of duty.
§ MR. HUSSEY VIVIAN
said, that as a Member of the Committee he unfortunately could not take the same view that his hon. Friend the Chairman had just expressed. The Committee were entirely unanimous; the words proposed by the Lord Advocate that evening were copied from the Report of the Committee, and he felt bound to support there the very words which he had supported upstairs. A good deal more was implied in the Motion of the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock. He thought it would be quite impossible for the Lord Chancellor to continue to occupy his high office if that right hon. Member's Motion were carried. Now, that either was or was not based on the investigation which the Committee had made. As a Member of that Committee he could not for one moment say that the evidence was in any way sufficient to cause him to give a vote which would have the effect of forcing the Lord Chancellor to resign his office. He said distinctly that neither in the case which was investigated in another place nor in the case which was investigated by their own Committee, could he conceive that the evidence was such as to warrant the House in adopting such words as would cause the Lord Chancellor to resign his office. He had not the slightest 1120 wish, nor did he feel anxious to advocate the cause of the Lord Chancellor in any shape or form. Purely judicial functions had devolved upon him as a Member of the Committee. Those functions he had discharged to the best of his ability, and with, he believed, strict impartiality; and the conclusion to which he now came was, he thought, equally impartial. In the evidence submitted to the House he saw no ground for forcing the Lord Chancellor to quit his office, and it was his determination to support the words of the Committee.
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
Sir, the position in which we find ourselves placed by the determination just expressed by the hon. Member for Northamptonshire, appears to me, I confess, somewhat extraordinary, and is perhaps one that is not very convenient. ["Hear!"] Hon. Gentlemen opposite, I admit, can put their own construction on my words, but my meaning was simply this—that when notice is given of a Motion, and we have an opportunity of considering its terms, it is certainly not in a high degree convenient that we should have suddenly substituted for it another which is not upon the notice paper, and the terms of which we have had no such opportunity of considering. But, fortunately, we are in a great measure relieved from that difficulty by the tenour of the speech of my right hon. Friend behind me (Mr. Bouverie), who, whatever may be the terms of his Motion, distinctly says that he tenders it to the House as a vote of want of confidence in the Lord Chancellor, with the express purpose and intention of driving that noble and learned Lord from office. I do not wonder that under these circumstances hon. Gentlemen opposite should so willingly accept it, or that it should appear to them to be so convenient a Motion. But, of course, I need not say that if that be the case, the House and the country will not be misled by this change in the form of the Motion, and they will not be led to think—whatever any hon. Gentlemen may say who in this House are no longer subject to those judicial obligations and sanctions to which they are subject in Committee— the House and the country will not, I say, be led to think that this is the mode in which we shall be likely best to support the decision of the Committee which we have appointed. The House has a duty on this occasion—a very grave one—to discharge to its Committee, to the Lord Chancellor, and to the public. Well, Sir, 1121 I cannot accept, even from so very honourable a source as that of the Chairman of the Committee—I cannot accept even from him, sitting in this House, and being, doubtless, not willing to separate himself from those among whom he sits—I cannot accept the interpretation he has put on the plain language of the Committee, however convenient it may be for the other side of the House. What is the Amendment submitted by my hon. and learned Friend the Lord Advocate? It is expressly an affirmance of the decision of the Committee, in the very terms in which the Committee have expressed it. I beg leave once more to read it—That this House having considered the Report of the Select Committee on the Leeds Bankruptcy Court, and the evidence taken by it, agrees with the Committee in the opinion that the facts which are established acquit the Lord Chancellor from all charge in the matters to which it refers, except that of haste and want of caution in granting a pension to Mr. Wilde; but this House is of opinion that some further check should he placed by law upon the grant of pensions to the holders of legal offices.What are the words of the Committee? Towards the conclusion of their Report, summing up, they say—and it is consistent with everything said before—They must be allowed to observe, in conclusion, that while the facts which they believe to be established by the evidence, acquit the Lord Chancellor from all charge, except that of haste and want of caution in granting a pension to Mr. Wilde.Is there a Member of the Committee in this House who will vote against that? And is there anything in the Report affecting the Lord Chancellor different from that? The hon. Member for Northamptonshire says the pension was granted hastily and without due examination. Hon. Gentlemen opposite show the wonderful acuteness with which they can distinguish in these matters. They see one meaning in the words "hastily and without due examination," and another in "haste and want of caution;" but I apprehend the country will not be able to discover any difference between the two forms of expression. The Committee pronounce their verdict in terms which we adopt in the Amendment of the Lord Advocate, and I take these words and ask the House to express their assent to that conclusion. And I take the liberty of adding that the Amendment of the Lord Advocate is far more for the public interest than that which it proposed to substitute for it; because the public interest is not so 1122 much to express an opinion on the conduct of this or that person, unless indeed he is seriously considered to be a delinquent against whom public justice demands severe measures to be taken, as that advantage should be taken of disclosures made on this as on other occasions in order to correct defects that exist in the law, and that errors of this description should not be committed if they can by any means be avoided. My right hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock says there is no fault in the law—that the law is perfectly right, and that the Lord Chancellor is the person by whom these pensions ought to be granted. The Amendment of the Lord Advocate takes issue on that point, and I ask, is it right that pensions of this description should be granted by persons not ordinarily conversant with the management of the public purse, who ordinarily have in view only professional and legal considerations? or, is it right that this class of pensions like all others— those of the civil and diplomatic service, for example—should be referred to the Treasury and be under the entire superintendence and authority of the Treasury? I own I should have thought, but for what has fallen from my right hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock, that there could not have been two opinions on that point, and that all must agree that the present anomaly of such pensions being granted by the Lord Chancellor and other judicial officers ought to cease. It will be a very great benefit to the public and a relief to those intrusted with judicial duties that such responsibility should be taken from them and given to the guardians of the public purse. The Amendment of the Lord Advocate adopts the conclusion and verdict of the Committee, and recommends an alteration and improvement of the law, for the future, providing safeguards against the recurrence of any haste or want of caution leading to similar results. But, having said so much with regard to the interests of the public and the affirmance of the conclusions of the Committee, I beg leave to make some observations on the duty which I venture to think the House owes to the Lord Chancellor in this matter. Is it or is it not the duty of the House to consider whether, if the findings of this Report are correct, the Lord Chancellor ought to be subject to such censure as that proposed by my right hon. Friend? What were the different points referred to the Committee! First, the circumstances connected with 1123 the resignation of Mr. Wilde. It has been admitted by every one who has spoken that the conduct of Mr. Wilde in his office was such that it was for the public benefit he should not continue to hold it. Those who heard the candid and able statement of the Lord Advocate are probably also of opinion that it would have been a greater degree of severity than had been meted out in any similar case, if Mr. Wilde had been absolutely dismissed and not permitted to retire with a pension. The facts are very simple. Mr. Wilde made the usual statement, verified by affidavit, that there was sufficient cause from the failure of his sight for not continuing in his office, the duties of which for thirteen years he had discharged in a manner which no one would dispassionately say required dismissal, although most persons would be of opinion that he had discharged them in an inefficient manner. He verifies his petition by affidavit. No one can call in question the sufficiency of the cause as stated in these documents, and but for circumstances that directed so much attention to this case it would not have occurred to any one reading the certificate that it was in any way different from the certificate and petition of any other applicant for a retiring pension. The Lord Chancellor himself is the principal cause of the censure which is brought against him on this point, because he admits he did not give the certificate that particular examination which he ought to have done. For the rest of the case nobody would visit him with severe censure, because the statement of the petition and affidavit would naturally be believed by every one reading them. No one was entitled to suppose that the certificate was not honestly given. The Lord Chancellor says he did not particularly advert to the certificate. The business of his office is of a very onerous and overwhelming kind. I cannot for a moment believe that the House would think there was a sufficient ground for the vote of want of confidence in the Lord Chancellor so as to drive him from office because he gave credit, in this respect, to his subordinate officer. If this part of the case stood alone, would the House think it worthy of this censure? I cannot suppose for a moment that this would be looked upon as sufficient ground, if it were not for those other matters, as to all of which the Lord Chancellor has received most complete vindication in the Report. Is it just, in a case where matters so trivial are mixed up with matters so grave, to avail 1124 yourselves of these grave matters, though, in themselves not substantiated, so far as the Lord Chancellor is concerned, in order to give the more trivial matters a weight which not one of you in your conscience can believe attaches to it? Is that reasonable— is it just—is it candid—is it worthy of the House of Commons? I would request every hon. Gentleman to ask himself this question—Would you have been prepared to concur in a vote of want of confidence if there had been nothing but this, that the Lord Chancellor, in granting a pension to an officer whose contiuance in office was undesirable, but whose offences were not sufficient to warrant his dismissal, had not given sufficient attention to the form of an affidavit? That I do not think anybody would have done. But for other matters as to which by your lips you profess to acquit the Lord Chancellor, you allow yourselves to be drawn into Resolutions on this paltry ground, which you would not have thought of under other circumstances. I believe in your consciences you cannot deny that, and I must say that I heard with the most profound astonishment something that fell from my right hon. Friend (Mr. Bouverie). Anything more foreign to what I should have thought likely to receive acceptance in this House I never heard, and yet it was received with not a few cheers from the other side of the House. He said "no doubt, notoriety is not evidence." But he went on to say, "If we are to listen to rumours current in society there can be no doubt this is not a solitary case." Is that the ground on which hon. Members are going to vote to-night? Then, what a farce it was to appoint a Committee upstairs to examine into evidence upon which the Committee acquits the Lord Chancellor of everything. ["Oh!"] Why, the hon. Gentleman who made the Motion (Mr. Hunt) distinctly disclaimed any imputation of corruption against the Lord Chancellor, and the right hon. Gentleman behind me (Mr. Bouverie) did the same. But we are told of whispers and rumours out of doors, of matters of notoriety which are no evidence at all, and we are therefore to take it for granted that this is not a solitary case. No doubt there are, and have been, rumours out of doors which have imputed corruption; but when these rumours have come to be judicially examined by a Committee they have been utterly dissipated. And yet you fall back now upon other rumours 1125 —matters of notoriety! Is that the way justice is to be meted out to persons filling such high offices as that of Lord Chancellor? I apprehend that is not the view which the House at large will take. But I wish to make an observation upon the Amendment of my right hon. Friend behind me (Mr. Bouverie), which I was astonished to hear was to be supported by Members of the Committee. He thinks it expedient that the House should declare by its vote that there have been corrupt practices connected with officers under the Lord Chancellor which the House should condemn. Now, what did the Committee recommend upon this subject? They said —The statement of Mr. [larding is irreconcilable with that of Mr. Bethell and Mr. Welch. Mr. Harding's statement, if true, discloses a corrupt bargain between the three parties; if false, it is a gross attempt at extortion. One or other of these conclusions would be established by a judicial investigation of the facts of the case; but, as each of them involves the liability to a charge of a highly penal character, your Committee, not having the opportunity of examining witnesses upon oath, or of bringing the persons inculpated to a formal trial, purposely abstain from expressing any opinion as to which of the two views above mentioned ought to be adopted. They consider it their duty to observe that the indisputable facts are such as to render it essential to the public interest that the case should, as soon as possible, be made the subject of legal investigation.What did the Government do when that Report came before them? They determined to act upon the Report. They consulted the Law Officers of the Crown, whether the evidence justified the institution of legal proceedings, being determined to take those proceedings sinless the Law Officers should say on their responsibility that there was not sufficient evidence to warrant them in taking that course. But the Committee did not say that, while this consultation was proceeding, it was necessary to prejudge and pre-determine the case by a Resolution in this House. If legal proceedings are to be taken I would humbly advise the House to adopt the recommendation of the Committee; but the right hon. Gentleman invites the House to do that which the Committee refused to do, and to declare beforehand that the evidence establishes a case of corrupt practices. I will not deny that a case might be imagined in which it might he expedient for the House to take that course—a case where it had been shown that, behind the Lord Chancellor or other high officers of State, there were persons with frequent access to him who were in 1126 the habit of selling for money or other corrupt considerations the patronage which it was his duty to administer. But what does the evidence in this case come to? That a spendthrift son of the Lord Chancellor, who, a year before these things happened, had mentioned casually to the Lord Chancellor the name of an acquaintance as a person he recommended for a particular office, that son being in difficulties, raising money wherever he could get it, accepted an advance of money upon the understanding that he would use his influence to procure for the same person the same office—he being at that time in such circumstances as makes it obvious that he never afterwards did use, and never could use, any influence for that purpose. It is clear that these are circumstances which can in no way tend to cast a general suspicion upon the purity of the public service—it is a case against which no conceivable safeguard can be raised, but which may, most properly, he left to be dealt with by the ordinary methods of law. Who are the persons besides the Lord Chancellor against whom the charge of corruption is made? Much has been said about Mr. Miller, but I do not find that any charge of corruption is made against him or against any person except Mr. Welch and the unfortunate son of the Lord Chancellor. Any candid person reading the evidence would adopt the conclusions of the Committee. Reference to the case of Mr. Edmunds has been made. In that case, I must say that I think undoubtedly the Lord Chancellor did commit an error in not taking upon himself the responsibility of communicating the facts relating to Mr. Edmunds' case to the Committee of the House of Lords. But if that was so grave an error as to justify a vote of want of confidence in order to remove the Lord Chancellor from his office, the time has gone by at which that course might have been expected to be taken. It is some months ago since that was discussed. [Mr. HENNESSY: It was May 17.] Well, we are now at July 3. There have been abundant opportunities for any hon. Member to propose a Motion on that subject. Do hon. Gentlemen opposite expect it to be believed that they really intended to make any Motion concerning the Edmunds' case, when they have postponed it until now? [An hon. MEMBER: We did not expect a second edition of it.] Just so. If this second case had not come out we should have heard nothing of any 1127 such Motion. I ask that each of these cases should be fairly considered upon its own merits; and if it is clear that the Lord Chancellor could have had no corrupt motive in the case of Mr. Wilde, although he may be open to slight reflection for haste and want of caution, yet it is impossible to make it a more serious matter by importing the case of Mr. Edmunds into the consideration of the case of Mr. Wilde. Of the other things you profess to acquit the Lord Chancellor, but you take advantage of them to assist in this attack. As to the case of Mr. Edmunds, the House will remember that it was not the Lord Chancellor who granted the pension, and that the facts relating to that case were matters of notoriety long before. I know that I read a concise account of the general facts connected with the Edmunds' case in a newspaper in the autumn of last year, and they were notorious to most, if not all, of the Members of the House of Lords who granted that pension. Although I concur with the Committee of the House of Lords, that it was an error of the Lord Chancellor not to officially communicate the facts to them, yet it is impossible to conceive that many Members of the House of Lords were not as cognizant of all the most material facts as the Lord Chancellor himself. The Committee, in fact, fell into the same error that the Lord Chancellor did. Will the House allow me to ask them to look on the other side of the question? Is it true that the Lord Chancellor has not had at heart in all these matters the public interest? Who was it that set the Patent Office inquiry on foot? Who discovered the gross abuses by which the public had been defrauded? The Lord Chancellor. I beg to remind hon. Gentlemen that those abuses had been going on unsuspected since 1832, under two Conservative Governments, as well as under several Liberal Governments, and it was reserved for the present Lord Chancellor to ferret out the abuses, to remove the offender, and to recover for the public a very considerable sum of money. Nor was there any secrecy in that inquiry. It was known to many persons. The Lord Chancellor, in his zeal for the public survice, did inflict upon that individual a very severe punishment, and only did not interfere to prevent him from receiving a pension upon his retirement from a different office, in which no misconduct had been imputed to him, because he did not wish to take the responsibility of deciding upon himself. I 1128 agree that it would have been better if the Lord Chancellor had taken that responsibility upon himself; but those who are disposed to pass a fair and just—I will not say a generous—judgment, will consider in some degree the great service done to the public in instituting these inquiries and exposing those abuses. So it has been in the matters connected with bankruptcy. We know that the Lord Chancellor has incurred odium at Leeds and throughout the country because, on its being represented to him that there were gross abuses prevalent among the local officers, he insisted on searching into those matters thoroughly; thus he communicated many facts (including the proceedings and correspondence in the particular case of Mr. Wilde), to the Committee which sat to consider the subject of bankruptcy, he corrected many abuses and punished, always mercifully, many offenders. Can any one say of his patronage generally that it has been marked by any want of consideration for the public service? Ecclesiastical patronage has been spoken of; but be it remembered that the Lord Chancellor is the first who, for what he considered the public benefit, surrendered about 300 livings, many of them of no inconsiderable value. And what as to his judicial patronage? My hon. Friend the Member for Northamptonshire (Mr. Hunt) justly said that it would be a most serious thing if any doubt were thrown on the purity of judicial patronage. But has the Lord Chancellor, advising the Crown as to the higher judicial patronage, done nothing to entitle him to the acknowledgments even of the other side of the House? Has he not recommended men to sit on the bench without regard to party considerations? Was not the last Judge who now does honour to the bench taken from the ranks of the opposite side? Not for want of good men here, in and out of Parliament, well qualified to fill that office; but because the Lord Chancellor desired to take the man ! who, all things considered, was the most qualified and the best fitted for the office. The other night it was suggested that if the Office of Chief Judge in Bankruptcy had been established by Parliament the Lord Chancellor might have made some unworthy appointment; but it was not long after the passing of the Bankruptcy Act that Parliament passed a law concerning the transfer of land, and under that law an office of some value was created, a chief 1129 registrarship with not inconsiderable salary and not inconsiderable responsibility. Did the Lord Chancellor consider to whom he could give that office on grounds of personal or private favour? No; he selected for that office another gentleman who had borne a distinguished part on the other side —the brother of the late Sir William Follett—whose appointment has given universal satisfaction. But has his desire to consult the public good in the administration of his patronage been confined to offices of this high degree? I venture to say that all who have observed the manner in which the County Court Judgeships have been bestowed will agree in bearing testimony to the anxious desire the Lord Chancellor has shown to bestow them for qualification and merit, without regard to personal or party considerations. And I have been informed from many quarters that if the House could know how these Registrarships in Bankruptcy have generally been bestowed, they would see no reason to believe that they have been an exception to the regard for the public benefit which had characterized his administration. These are matters which the House ought to consider before it agrees in a vote of this kind. If this is all that can be brought against the Lord Chancellor, that having severely punished Mr. Edmunds he did not like that his own hand should strike the final blow; that, when he had determined that Mr. Wilde ought, on public grounds, to retire, he did his duty in examining the claim of that individual to a pension, in too cursory and perfunctory a manner—looking to the shining merits of this great person, looking to his eminent and long public services, and to the total failure of the attempt which has been made to bring against him charges of a graver complexion and character, will not the House say—Non ego paucisOffendar maculis, quas aut incuria fudit,Aut humana parum cavit natura,and refuse to concur in this unworthy Motion of my right hon. Friend?
§ MR. E. C. EGERTON
said, he had intended to remain perfectly silent in this debate until he heard the speech which had just been delivered by the Attorney General. He sat on the Committee to which had been referred the disclosures connected with the Leeds Bankruptcy Court, and which, unanimously absolving the Lord Chancellor from any corrupt motives, imputed to him want of caution in granting retiring allowances. But when 1130 the House was asked to whitewash the noble and learned Lord—when they were asked to put him on as high a pedestal as any of the great men who had ever sat on the Woolsack, they were bound to take a wider range and consider what the Lord Chancellor had done in other cases. He had not had the good fortune to hear the beginning of this debate; but when he read, being in the country, the Motion of his hon. Friend the Member for Northamptonshire, he felt it was impossible for him to say "No" to it. He felt that, though he had been a Member of the Committee which acquitted the Lord Chancellor of any corrupt motives, yet, looking at the different circumstances connected with the Edmunds' case, looking at the circumstances which, as the Attorney General said, were matters of notoriety throughout the length and breadth of the land, he believed the House, exercising the highest judicial functions, was bound to see that the great Officers of State were perfectly free from all suspicion. It was for that reason that he was sorry to hear the vaunting speech of the Attorney General. It would have been far better if the hon. and learned Gentleman had left the matter where it remained with the Report of the Committee which acquitted the Lord Chancellor of corrupt motives, but imputed to him a want of caution, which, in his position, was a grave matter. Speaking as one who had never shown any great activity in political matters, and who had no strong political bias, and was sorry to do anything to injure any public man, he did not see how he could refuse his assent to the Motion of the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock.
I am one of those who were unable to vote for the Motion of my hon. Friend the Member for the county of Northampton, because I thought the language was so obscure that it might possibly leave the sting of corruption which my hon. Friend did not intend. But the speech of the hon. and learned Attorney General has laid down such strange propositions that I cannot help commenting upon them. The Motion before the House took into consideration the whole conduct of the Lord Chancellor; but the Amendment of the Lord Advocate altogether passed by what took place elsewhere, and confined itself to the narrow ground of what passed before the Leeds Bankruptcy Committee. It is hardly likely that the House would so narrow the question. But the Attorney 1131 General argued in the strongest and in the most excited manner that it was not reasonable that this House should take into consideration two sets of circumstances analogous in their character and occurring in the same Session, because their disclosure did not take place within two or three months of each other. [An hon. MEMBER: Six weeks.] This is a position so extraordinary that I cannot help commenting upon it. Of a single transaction it might be said that it would not occur again; but when two transactions like these come together it would hardly be the duty of Parliament to pass them by without attaching blame where it was due. Now that is what the Resolution of the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock does. But it goes one step further, and it says that no man can continue in these sort of transactions without giving rise to all sorts of public scandals. That is the reason why I shall cordially support the Resolution of my right hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock. It separates all charges of corruption from the Lord Chancellor, and it says—what I believe is the truth—that this laxity gives rise to improper transactions. Mr. Welch distinctly states that he had lent money to many persons to get their good offices, and that he had lent £500 on this very occasion. It is, therefore, impossible to say that there have not been corrupt practices. I do not believe that the money had anything to do with the appointment, but there is no doubt that money was given that it might be done. Though I am the last person to wish to press heavily on any public man, I must say that when two matters of this sort are brought forward—one in the other House so strong that they deprive a gentleman of a pension they had previously voted him, because they thought it had been obtained by the withholding of information which ought to have been laid before them; the other a case in which our own Committee has reported that the Lord Chancellor showed great want of caution— we should not be doing our duty if we did not say that such a course of action was worthy of reprehension. Whether that will have such an effect upon the Lord Chancellor as to make him dislike remaining where he is is not our business. But we should be going from our duty if we did not express our opinion upon transactions brought before us.
§ COLONEL DOUGLAS PENNANT
, as a Member of the Committee, wished to say 1132 a few words in reference to what had fallen from the Attorney General. The hon. and learned Gentleman taunted the Members of the Committee with giving their votes this evening for party purposes. In answer to that charge he could only say that the first moment he saw the Motion of his hon. Friend the Member for Northamptonshire in writing he went to him and told him that the first paragraph of it contained an assertion which was not borne out by the evidence taken before the Committee. That assertion conveyed the impression that facilities existed for obtaining public employments by corrupt means, of which there was not evidence before the Committee. Therefore it was not in his power to vote for the Motion which his hon. Friend brought forward. That, he thought, settled, as far as he was concerned, the charge of voting from party motives. The Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kilmarnock avoided that point and met the justice of the case, and therefore he should give it his support.
§ Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question," put, and negatived.
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ MR. E. P. BOUVERIE
said, that he proposed to negative the admission of these words, and afterwards to move the insertion of those of which he had given notice.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
Sir, the course which has been taken with regard to the original Motion places this matter in an altogether new position. The Motion of the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Hunt) clearly implied a charge of corruption against the Lord Chancellor. ["No, no!"and "Hear, hear !"] That is my opinion, and it is the opinion of many others. That was a very grave charge, and one which it was absolutely necessary to resist at the first opportunity that presented itself. The hon. Gentleman has abandoned that charge; and it appears to me to be the unanimous conviction of the House that no charge can justly be brought against the Lord Chancellor upon the ground of corruption in the administration of his high office. We have now, however, before us two Amendments, both of which have been brought before us for the first time in the course of this evening—one, that of my right hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock, which he read to the House in the 1133 course of his speech, but which I apprehend a great number of the Members of this House have had no opportunity of weighing in their minds. Now, under these circumstances, it appears to me that, as this is a grave question—the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kilmarnock stating that the object which he has in view is to call upon the House to declare that it has no confidence in the Chancellor, and that is, no doubt, a matter of very considerable importance as regards an officer in his high position, and a Member of the Government—it seems to me that the House is not at the present moment in a condition—the Government is not in a condition—to determine in what way they will deal with that Motion. My right hon. Friend takes, as it appears to me, a very narrow view of the grounds upon which public confidence ought or ought not to be reposed in a public officer. He is of opinion that in consequence of the particular way in which certain pensions have been granted he cannot place confidence in the Lord Chancellor. My hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General has described how the Lord Chancellor has disposed of patronage much more extensive and much more important in a manner highly deserving the confidence the country. The House should also recollect the great improvement in every branch of the law which the present Chancellor has introduced, and which, whatever may be the opinion of this House with regard to his tenure of office, will, I venture to say, render his name illustrious among those of the great reformers of the law of this country. It is not necessary to enumerate the various improvements of which he has been the author. The consolidation of the Statute Law, by which it has been reduced from forty-four volumes to ten, the practical abolition of imprisonment for debt, and many other improvements affecting every class of the community. My hon. and learned Friend was therefore entitled to say that, whatever may be the opinion of my right hon. Friend as to the necessity for withdrawing confidence from the Chancellor in consequence of the grant of these pensions, the disposal of his great patronage and the manner in which the Lord Chancellor has performed his great and important duties, as the head of the law, do entitle him to the confidence of this House and of the country. As I said before, we are now, I think, embarking upon a new discussion, quite different from that which was suggested by 1134 the Motion of the hon. Member for Northamptonshire, and I should therefore propose that this debate should be adjourned until to-morrow [loud cries of" Oh, oh!"and "Divide!"and cheers], in order that we may be enabled well to consider the Motion of my right hon. Friend, and the grounds upon which he has recommended it
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."— (Viscount Palmerston.)
§ MR. DISRAELI
I cannot help thinking that the proposition of the noble Lord is one which the House will not find it convenient to adopt. The subject has been discussed very amply to-night, and with reference to the objection that the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman is not in print, I cannot forget that the Amendment of the Government has also not been printed; but, even under that disadvantage, we were prepared to give it a due and fair consideration. I also think that, considering the position in which the House is now placed, there is an air of mockery in proposing to adjourn the debate. It appears to me that this is a question upon which the House ought at once to pronounce a decision. The House has been unusually well attended throughout a lengthened debate, and it is in my opinion quite qualified to come to a decision at once. I trust, therefore, that the noble Lord will re-consider his proposition, and will allow us to pronounce an opinion upon the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman. If, however, he persists in his strange proposal to adjourn the debate—whether to the next Parliament or not we are not informed—I shall, under the peculiar circumstances, consider it my duty, however generally unwilling to resist such a proposal from a Minister, to oppose the adoption of that course. [Cries of "Divide, divide!"]
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
The right hon. Gentleman has suggested that the object of my noble Friend in moving the adjournment of the debate was to avoid a decision upon this question, and he professed ignorance whether the noble Lord did not intend to adjourn the discussion until next Parliament. My noble Friend, in making the Motion, said distinctly that all he wished for was an adjournment until tomorrow, in order to give the House an opportunity of considering the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kilmarnock, which very few Members 1135 even heard read. If the House should agree to the adjournment, my noble Friend will to-morrow state, on the part of the Government, the course which they intend to pursue. ["Divide, divide!"]
§ Question put:—The House divided:— Ayes 163; Noesl 77: Majority 14.
I merely wish to state to the House that we are anxious not to give them more trouble than is necessary, and that, therefore, we will accept the decision upon the question of adjournment as an expression of the feeling of the House upon the original question before it. We shall, therefore, not trouble the House to divide again on the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kilmarnock.
§ Question, "That those words be there added,"—(The Lord Advocate,)—put, and negatived.
Another Amendment proposed,
To add, after the first word "That," in the original Question, the words "this House, having considered the Report of the Committee on the Leeds Bankruptcy Court, and the Evidence taken before them, are of opinion, that, while the Evidence discloses the existence of corrupt practices, with reference to the appointment of Patrick Robert Welch to the office of Registrar of the Leeds Bankruptcy Court, they are satisfied that no imputation can fairly be made against the Lord Chancellor, with regard to this appointment; and that such evidence, and also that taken before a Committee of the Lords to inquire into the circumstances connected with the resignation of Mr. Edmunds of the offices held by him, and laid before this House, show a laxity of practice and a want of caution with regard to the public interests, on the part of the Lord Chancellor, in sanctioning the grant of Retiring Pensions to Public Officers against whom grave charges were pending, which, in the opinion of this House, are calculated to discredit the administration of his great office."—(Mr. Edward Pleydell Bouverie.)
§ Question, "That those words be there added," put, and agreed to.
§ Main Question, as amended, put and agreed to.
§ Resolved, That this House, having considered the Report of the Committee on the Leeds Bankruptcy Court, and the Evidence taken before them, are of opinion, that, while the Evidence discloses the existence of corrupt practices, with reference to the appointment of Patrick Robert Welch to the office of Registrar of the Leeds Bankruptcy Court, they are satisfied that no imputation can fairly be made against the Lord Chancellor with regard to this appointment; and that such Evidence, and also that taken before a Committee of 1136 the Lords to inquire into the circumstances connected with the resignation of Mr. Edmunds of the offices held by him, and laid before this House, show a laxity of practice and a want of caution with regard to the public interests, on the part of the Lord Chancellor, in sanctioning the grant of Retiring Pensions to Public Officers against whom grave charges were pending, which, in the opinion of this House, are calculated to discredit the administration of his great office.1138
|Acland, T. D.||Gibson, rt. hon. T. M,|
|Andover, Viscount||Gladstone, rt. hon. W.|
|Angerstein, W.||Glyn, G. C.|
|Ashley, Lord||Glyn, G. G.|
|Athlumney, Lord||Goldsmid, Sir F. H.|
|Ayrton, A. S.||Goschen, G. J.|
|Aytoun, R. S.||Gower, G. W. G. L.|
|Baines, E.||Gregory, W. H.|
|Baring, H. B.||Grenfell, C. P.|
|Baring, rt. hn. Sir F.T.||Grenfell, H. R.|
|Baring, T. G.||Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.|
|Beamish, F. B.||Grosvenor, Lord R.|
|Beaumont, W. B.||Gurney, S.|
|Berkeley, hn. Col. F. W. F.||Hadfield, G.|
|Berkeley, hon. C. P. F.||Handley, J.|
|Biddulph, Colonel M.||Hankey, T.|
|Blencowe, J. G.||Hartington, Marquess of|
|Bouverie, hon. P. P.||Hervey, Lord A.|
|Brassey, T.||Hayter, rt. hn. Sir W. G.|
|Bruce, Lord C.||Henderson, J.|
|Bruce, Lord E.||Hodgkinson, G.|
|Bruce, rt. hon. H. A.||Hodgson, K. D.|
|Buller, Sir A. W.||Holland, E.|
|Bury, Viscount||Horsman, rt. hon. E.|
|Butler, C. S.||Howard, Lord E.|
|Buxton, C.||Ingham, R.|
|Caird, J.||Jervoise, Sir J. C.|
|Calthorpe, hon. F. H. W. G.||Johnstone, Sir J.|
|King, hon. P. J. L.|
|Cardwell, rt. hon. E.||Kingscote, Colonel|
|Castlerosse, Viscount||Kinnaird, hon. A. F.|
|Cavendish, Lord G.||Knatchbull-Hugessen, E.|
|Childers, H. C. E.||Lawrence, J. C.|
|Churchill, Lord A. S.||Lawson, W.|
|Clive, G.||Layard, A. H.|
|Colebrooke, Sir T. E.||Lefevre, G. J. S.|
|Collier, Sir R. P.||Lewis, H.|
|Cowper, rt. hon. W. F.||Locke, J.|
|Crawford, R. W.||Lysley, W. J.|
|Crossley, Sir F.||Mackinnon, W. A. (Lym)|
|Davey, R.||Mackinnon, W. A. (Rye)|
|Davie, Sir H. R. F||M'Mahon, P.|
|Davie, Colonel F.||Marjoribanks, D. C.|
|Denman, hon. G.||Marshall, W.|
|Dodson, J. G.||Matheson, A.|
|Doulton, F.||Merry, J.|
|Duff, M. E. G.||Mills, J. R.|
|Dundas, F.||Mitchell, T. A.|
|Dundas, rt. hon. Sir D.||Moncrieff, rt. hon. J.|
|Dunkellin, Lord||Monsell, rt. hon. W.|
|Enfield, Viscount||Moore, C.|
|Ewart, W.||Morris, W.|
|Fermoy, Lord||Neate, C.|
|Fitzwilliam, hn. C. W. W.||Packe, Colonel|
|Foley, H. W.||Padmore, R.|
|Forster, C.||Paget, Lord A.|
|Foster, W. O.||Paget, Lord C.|
|Fortescue, hon. D. F,||Palmer, Sir R.|
|Fortescne, rt. hon. C.||Palmerston, Viscount|
|Peel, rt.hon. Sir R.||Tite, W.|
|Pinney, Colonel||Tracy, hon. C. R. D. H.|
|Ponsonby, hon. A.||Trelawny, Sir J. S.|
|Portman, hon. W. H. B.||Verney, Sir H.|
|Potter, T. B.||Vernon, H.F.|
|Powell, J. J.||Villiers, rt. hon. C. P.|
|Price, R. G.||Vivian, H. H.|
|Proby, Lord||Vyner, R. A.|
|Ramsden, Sir J. W.||Waldegrave- Leslie, hn G|
|Robartes, T. J. A||Watkin, E. W.|
|Robertson, H.||Weguelin, T. M.|
|Roebuck, J. A.||Western, S.|
|Rothschild, Baron M. do||Whalley, G. H.|
|Russell, Sir W.||Whitbread, S.|
|St. Aubyn, J.||Wickham, G. W.|
|Salomons, Mr. Ald.||Winnington, Sir T. E.|
|Scott, Sir W.||Wood, rt. hon. Sir C.|
|Scrope, G. P.||Woods, H.|
|Seymour, H. D.||Wrightson, W. B.|
|Seymour, A.||Wyvill, M.|
|Smith, J. A.|
|Smith, J. B.||TELLERS.|
|Smith, M. T.||Brand, hon. H. B. W.|
|Stacpoole, W.||White, Colonel|
|Stuart, Colonel C.|
|Adderley, rt. hon. C. B.||Egerton, E. C.|
|Adeane, H. J.||Egerton, hon. W.|
|Archdall, Captain M.||Elphinstone, Sir J. D.|
|Baring, T.||Fane, Colonel J. W.|
|Barrow, W. H.||Farquhar, Sir M.|
|Barttelot, Colonel||Fellowes, E.|
|Bateson, Sir T.||Floyer, J.|
|Bathurst, A. A.||Forester, rt. hon. Gen.|
|Bathurst, Colonel H.||Franklyn, G. W.|
|Bentinck, G. C.||Gard, R. S.|
|Benyon, R.||Gilpin, Col.|
|Beresford, rt. hon. W.||Graham, Lord W.|
|Beresford, D. W. Pack-||Greenall, G.|
|Booth, Sir R. G.||Greene, J.|
|Bouverie, rt. hon. E. P.||Gray, Lt.-Colonel|
|Bovill, W.||Grey de Wilton, Visct.|
|Bowyer, Sir G.||Griffith, C. D.|
|Bramston, T. W.||Hamilton, Lord C.|
|Bremridge, R.||Hardy, G.|
|Bruce, Sir H. H.||Hardy, J.|
|Bulkeley, Sir R.||Hartopp, E. B.|
|Burghley, Lord||Harvey, R. B.|
|Butler-Johnstone, H. A.||Henley, rt. hon. J. W.|
|Cairns, Sir H. M' C.||Hennessy, J. P.|
|Cartwright, Colonel||Henniker, Lord|
|Clifford, Colonel||Hesketh, Sir T. G.|
|Clive, Capt. hon. G. W.||Hevgate, Sir F. W.|
|Collins, T.||Holford, R. S.|
|Copeland, Mr. Ald.||Hood, Sir A. A.|
|Corry, rt. hon. H. L.||Hopwood, J. T.|
|Courtenay, Lord||Howes, E.|
|Cranbourne, Viscount||Humberston, P. S.|
|Cubitt, G.||Humphery, W. H.|
|Curzon, Viscount||Ingestre, Viscount|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Jolliffe, rt. hn. Sir W. G. H.|
|Dawson, R. P.||Jolliffe, H. H.|
|Dering, Sir E. C.||Jones, D.|
|Dick, F.||Kerrison, Sir E. C.|
|Disraeli, rt. hon. B.||Knatchbull, W. F.|
|Du Cane, C.||Knight, F. W.|
|Duke, Sir J.||Knightley, Sir R.|
|Duncombe, hon. A.||Knox, Colonel|
|Du Pré, C. G.||Knox, hon. Major S.|
|Eaton, H. W.||Langton, W. G.|
|Egerton, Sir P. G.||Leeke, Sir H.|
|Egerton, hon, A. F.||Legh, Major C.|
|Legh, W. J.||Rolt, J.|
|Lennox, Lord G. G.||Rose, W. A|
|Lennox, Lord H. G.||Rowley, hon. R. T.|
|Lennox, C. S. B. H. K.||Scholefield, W.|
|Liddell, hon. H. G.||Sclater-Booth, G.|
|Lowther, hon. Colonel||Selwyn, C. J.|
|Lowther, Captain||Smith, A. (Herts)|
|Lyall, G.||Smith, A. (Truro)|
|Lygon, hon. F.||Somerset, Colonel|
|Mainwaring, T.||Stanhope, J. B.|
|Malins, R.||Stanhope, Lord|
|Manners, rt. hn. Lord J.||Stanley, Lord|
|Miles, Sir W.||Stirling, W.|
|Miller, T. J.||Stuart, Lt.-Colonel W.|
|Mills, A.||Sturt, H. G.|
|Mitford, W. T.||Sturt, Lieut.-Col. N.|
|Montagu, Lord R.||Surtees, H. E.|
|Montgomery, Sir G.||Sykes, Colonel W. H.|
|Morgan, O.||Thynne, Lord E.|
|Morgan, hon. Major||Thynne, Lord H.|
|Mowbray, rt. hon. J. R.||Tollemache, J.|
|Murray, W.||Tomline, G.|
|Nicol, W.||Trefusis, hon. C. H. R.|
|Noel, hon. G. J.||Treherne, M.|
|North, Colonel||Trevor, Lord A. E. Hill-|
|North, F.||Trollope, rt. hon. Sir J.|
|Northcote, Sir S. H.||Turner, C.|
|O'Ferrall, rt. hon. R. M.||Vance, J.|
|O'Neill, E.||Vansittart, W.|
|Packe, C. W.||Verner, E. W.|
|Pakington, rt. hn. Sir J.||Vyse, Colonel H.|
|Palk, Sir L.||Walker, J. R.|
|Papillon, P. O.||Walpole, rt. hon. S. H.|
|Parker, Major W.||Walsh, Sir J.|
|Peel, rt. hon. General||Watlington, J. W. P.|
|Peel, J.||Whitmore, H.|
|Pennant, hon. Colonel||Williams, Colonel|
|Percy, Earl||Wyndham, hon. H.|
|Peto, Sir S. M.||Wyndham, hon. P.|
|Pevensey, Viscount||Wynn, C. W. W.|
|Phillips, G. L.|
|Powell, F. S.||TELLERS.|
|Pugh, D.||Hunt, G. W.|
|Repton, G. W. J.||Paull, H.|
|Ridley, Sir M. W.|
§ House adjourned at a quarter after Twelve o'clock.