HL Deb 04 July 1833 vol 19 cc111-4
Lord Lyndhurst

rose to propose to their Lordships the first reading of a Bill for the purpose of applying a remedy to an act of great cruelty and injustice. The act to which he alluded was the disposition made of his property by the will of Mr. Thellusson. He conceived that there could be no more effectual mode of drawing their Lordships' attention to the subject than by laying before them a simple, but which, no doubt, would appear to their Lordships an astounding statement, of the facts of this case. Their Lordships would be surprised to hear what already the taxed costs in the Court of Chancery in this case had been; they amounted to no less than 100,000l.; and before the term at which the final disposition of this property could be made would expire, they would amount, if the present system were continued, to no less than between 200,000l. and 300,000l., exclusive of the interest upon the advance of the money paid. If he were to calculate that interest upon the principle of an accumulating fund, the taxed costs in the Court of Chancery alone would amount at the termination of the period he had mentioned to the enormous sum of 500,000l. The terms of Mr. Thellusson's will were well known. It was a will founded upon selfish vanity, the object of it being at a future, though remote period, to identify the name of the testator with great, indeed with matchless wealth. The other expenses which had been incurred, added to the taxed costs in the Court of Chancery, amounted to no less than 176,336l. 4s. 8l. His object was, to bring in a Bill to remedy the evils generated by such an unjust and pre posterous disposition of a property. In consequence of the expenses he had already stated, the accumulation of the property, though thirty-five years had elapsed since the death of the testator, had been literally nothing, and that accumulation might still have to go on for ninety years to come. In the year 1803, shortly after the will of Mr. Thellusson had been established by a decision of their Lordships, the gross income of his property amounted to 23,959l. 12s. 6d. In the year 1832, only ten months ago, after twenty-nine years of accumulation, it only amounted to 24,165l. 5s. 10d., being an addition of merely 400l. or 500l. to the annual income in the course of that period. The expense attendant upon the conversion of the testator's personal into real property, with the aid of the Court of Chancery, and the expensive machinery connected with it, together with the expenses of management and of investment, had diminished the accumulation to the amount he had stated. Their Lordships would perceive, from the returns on this subject, now on their Table, what had been the actual effect of this will. The noble Lord read some returns confirming the statement he had just made, that the accumulation of the property was very little, owing to the power which the noble Lord said was possessed by the Court of Chancery to arrest such accumulations. One grievous effect of this will was, that the heads of this family were at present in a state of great distress, and that it was out of their power to support or educate their children in a manner suitable to their rank and condition in life. This was the most wanton disposition of property that was perhaps on record. That there should be no future disposition of a similar description had been already provided by a special Act of Parliament. This case, then, stood as an insulated one, as one without analogy, and they might deal with it as such, without any apprehension that their decision in this instance could possibly be drawn into a precedent hereafter in cases of a different character and description. It appeared, from the return to which he had already referred, that the annual amount of the accumulating income was 11,078l. 11s. 3d., the difference between that sum and the sum of 24,165l. 5s. 10d. being absorbed in the expenses of the management of the estate, and in the expenses incurred in the Court of Chancery. This return their Lordships would see was made out upon an average of the last twelve years. The whole of those expenses, incurred to a great extent for mere purposes of form, were entirely lost to the family of the testator. He was anxious that that fund should be made available for the relief of the distresses of the family. He proposed to effect that object by the adoption of a simple course. He had already stated, that the accumulating income amounted to 11,078l. 11s. 7d. a-year, and there was no reason for believing that that sum would in future ever be increased, if the present system of management should be adhered to. He proposed, in the Bill which he was about to lay before their Lordships, that, under the direction of the Court of Chancery, with security given, sufficient to satisfy the Lord Chancellor, a lease should be granted of those estates to the head of the family, to manage for the benefit of the parties concerned. He proposed, that the lease should be framed under the direction of the Court of Chancery, with all the proper covenants, guards, and restrictions, that might be deemed necessary. The result would be, that the sums which were already spent for the purposes of investment, and for the purposes of mere form in the Court of Chancery, would be applied to the support of the family. There was a subordinate part of the Bill to which he would for a moment advert. The family were, of course, interested in the selection of the estates to be purchased by the accumulating fund. He proposed in this Bill, that a power should be invested in them, subject to the correction and control of the Court of Chancery, to select the counties and districts in which those estates should be purchased. Such was the outline of the Bill which he was about to lay before their Lordships, and which, he was sure, if their Lordships should find it consistent with their duty to support it, they would derive great gratification from allowing it to pass into a law. According to the statement he had made—a statement borne out by the return on their Lordships' Table—the arrangement which he proposed would, while it did not affect the ultimate accumulation of the property, confer a great benefit upon the existing, without at all injuring a future generation. He might be asked, if the members of the family had given their assent to this measure. In reply, he had to say, that every adult member of the family was most anxious that this arrangement should be made, and, before the second reading of this Bill should come on, he would present to their Lordships a petition signed by the members of the family, anxiously praying their Lordships to pass it. He did not imagine that there would be any opposition offered from any quarter to such a measure of justice. He was sure, that the trustees would not allow any private interests of their own to stand in the way of its passing, and though he might be told that, in the event of a certain contingency, the whole of this property might vest in the Crown for the benefit of the public, yet he was confident, seeing the liberality of principle upon which the noble Earl opposite had uniformly acted, that no opposition would be offered by him on the part of the Crown to this measure. The measure he now submitted to their Lordships was intended to repair, as far as that was possible, one of the greatest acts of injustice that had ever been committed. The noble Lord concluded by presenting the Bill, and moving that it be read a first time.

The Lord Chancellor,

in seconding the Motion, said, that he entirely concurred in all that had fallen fron his noble and learned friend on the subject, and he heartily wished that the measure should meet with the concurrence of their Lordships.

The Earl of Shaftesbury

reminded his noble and learned friend, that this being a private Bill, it would be necessary, not only before reading it a first time, but before it could be brought in, to suspend two of the standing orders relating to private Bills, for which notice must be given.

Lord Lyndhurst

would, with permission of the House, withdraw the Bill, and give notice, that he would move the suspension of the Standing Orders in question tomorrow.

Bill withdrawn.

Back to