§ Viscount Melbourne
moved the Order of the Day for the House taking into consideration the amendments made by the House of Commons in this bill, and their reasons for dissenting from their Lordships' amendments. When these amendments were last under the consideration of their Lordships, he took the liberty of stating, that some of these amendments would probably not be concurred in elsewhere, and of expressing a hope, that any alteration which he introduced into them would be received by their Lordships in a spirit of candour and fairness, and that some of them, at least, they would be disposed to admit. It was not his intention to go into a general statement of the amendments. The most convenient plan would be to consider them as they arose, and he should 1036 therefore move them in the order in which they stood.
§ Amendments to be read.
§ Viscount Melbourne
, in moving, that their Lordships agree to the proviso, added by the Commons to Clause B, for the purpose of enabling the lord lieutenant to alter the boundaries of any borough which he thought might require alteration, observed, that their Lordships had ingrafted upon the bill the whole of the provisions which related to boundaries. He thought, it was trying the patience of the Commons pretty well, to send them down the bill with an entire new bill added in the middle of it.
§ Lord Lyndhurst
thought, that it was much more convenient to define the boundaries in the present bill, than leave it to be done by a separate enactment. Now, what was the course which their Lordships pursued in defining the boundaries in the present bill? They took the report of the Government Commissioners—a report sanctioned by the Government itself, and upon which a noble Lord, a Member of the Government, founded the bill, which he introduced in the other House. That bill was not carried through, so they took as boundaries the lines pointed out by the Commissioners. Could any thing be more fair and reasonable? The noble Viscount opposite suggested, that, contrary to what they did in the English Municipal Bill, and also in the Scotch, they should leave the defining of the boundaries to the advice and discretion of the Privy Council. It was impossible, that their Lordships could accede to such a proposition. The amendment, gave the Lord-lieutenant the power, not only to alter the boundaries, but also to make a new distribution of the wards. The Lord-lieutenant would not exercise the power himself, but it would be handed over to Mr. Secretary Drummond, and Mr. O'Connell, who would, of course, alter the boundaries, and make a distribution of the wards according to their own views. He therefore suggested to their Lordships the utter impossibility of agreeing to such an alteration.
was unable to comprehend how the noble Lord could say, that the Privy Council of Ireland was under the direction and control of Mr. O'Connell. They were the sworn officers of the Crown, and did he, or did any one suppose, that they would sacrifice their 1037 sworn duties? Was it fair to say, that they could not be intrusted with the performance of the duties which this bill gave to them?
The Earl of Wicklow
said, that the persons who were to settle the boundaries under the act, would be appointed by the Government. That would, therefore, become a matter of patronage, and from past experience, he should say, would probably be under the direction of the gentleman, whose name had just been mentioned. That of which he thought just complaint could be made, was, that the bill had been introduced without the preliminary steps having been taken which were necessary to the preparation of such a measure. He thought it would be much better to have a new bill in the next Session for settling the boundaries, than agree to such an amendment as that which was then sent to them from the Commons.
§ The Duke of Richmond
regretted to hear such frequent mention of the name of Mr. O'Connell, for it had the effect of making that gentleman appear of much greater importance than he really was. He thought, on the whole, that it would be much better to postpone the measure till the next Session of Parliament.
§ Motion negatived, and the Commons amendment disallowed.
§ Viscount Melbourne
moved, that the next amendment of the Commons be agreed to, that which fixed the qualification at 8l. He would not trouble their Lordships with any remarks upon the subject, for they must all be already aware of the arguments on both sides of the question. He hoped, that they would not persevere in the absurdity of seeking to establish the larger qualification in the poorer country.
said, that he still adhered to his former opinion—indeed, he thought, that instead of 5l., the qualification should simply be, as in England, a household qualification.
The Earl of Wicklow
understood the amendment to be an 8l. qualification with a rate, and he was pleased to find, that the other House had acted in so conciliatory a spirit. It was his opinion, that their Lordships ought to meet the Commons in the same spirit, and agree at once to the amendment.
considered, that the mode in which the Commons effected the change, was objectionable, and he would 1038 rather take the original proposition, than the amendment now before them.
§ Their Lordships divided.—Content 67; Not Content 144: Majority 77.1040
|List of the CONTENTS.|
|Conyngham||Saye and Sele|
|List of the NOT-CONTENTS.|
|Tankerville||Stuart de Rothsay|
|Stamford||Willoughby de Broke|
|Bp. of Carlisle||Bp. of Durham|
|Mount Cashell||Bp. Ripon|
§ Commons amendment rejected.
§ On the Clause relating to the administration of charity trusts.
§ The Marquess of Lansdowne
inquired, whether it were the wish of noble Lords opposite, to confer the administration of these charities upon the present corporators for ever?
denied, that such was their wish or their intention, but he did think, that until Parliament should otherwise provide, it would be better to leave them in the hands of those to whose direction it was the intention of the donors that they should be intrusted, than that they should be placed in the hands of the noble and learned Lord opposite (Lord Plunkett), who must be totally unacquainted with persons, and local interests, and must necessarily be surrounded by persons who had political and personal partialities to gratify, and who would negociate for the appointment of their friends to these offices. He certainly thought, that perverting charities to political purposes, was little less than sacrilege. There was no principle in which he would concur more readily than that; but till Parliament could devise a better system of charity administration, he thought that it would, upon the whole, be better to leave these trusts in the hands of the present corporators.
§ The Lord Chancellor
quite agreed in the doctrine laid down by the noble Baron, but he doubted, whether he was proceeding in a way to effect his object, The 1041 charity trusts would not vest in the corporation, in whom the donors intended that they should be vested, but in the excorporators, mere individual persons, in whom it was never intended that they should vest. The noble Baron seemed to think, that it would be easy to devise some plan for the better administration of these charities in which Parliament might concur. But the English Municipal Bill had been for some time the law of the land, and Parliament had not yet succeeded in devising any satisfactory plan for the administration of the English charity-trusts. Such an object had been aimed at, but it had not been attained. He had told their Lordships, what would be the effect of rejecting that measure—namely, the sacrifice of a large portion of the charity trusts; for it was evident, that if they came into Chancery, a considerable portion would remain there. It had been said, in the other House of Parliament, and elsewhere; that these trusts had been applied to the furtherance of political and party purposes. He was glad, that he had now the opportunity of explaining, to their Lordships the real state of the case, and of removing any erroneous impressions which might exist on the subject. He believed, that there were 102 cases in which applications had been made to the Court of Chancery for the appointment of trustees. These applications, according to the usual and established rule of the court, were referred to the Master, and certain regulations were made with a view to the saving of expense, and so great was the satisfaction with which both the parties applying and opposing, viewed the appointments made, that, four or five cases excepted, there was no appeal from the Master's decision, and in all these cases but one, the Master's choice was confirmed. That individual case related to the question, whether a particular estate was left for Church purposes, in which case the rule was laid down, that being a case not provided for in the English bill, although it was in the present, the trustees appointed should all be members of the Church of England. The Master, in this case, was of opinion, that the property was not left specifically for Church purposes, and he appointed some trustees who were not members of the Church of England, but, upon the best consideration which he could give to the subject, it appeared to him, that the property in question was left for Church 1042 purposes, and, therefore, the Master's report was so far varied. Their Lordships, therefore, might feel assured, that so far from applying these trusts to the furtherance of political and party purposes, he had not had the opportunity of doing so. It was said, that the same course might be adopted in Ireland. But what did their Lordships propose to do by the clause as it stood? They would appoint Parliamentary trustees, over whom the Court of Chancery would have no control. The trustees might pervert the trusts to any purpose, but the Court of Chancery could not remove them. It was most unfortunate, that no arrangement had been made for the better administration of these charities, but there was no comparison between the advantages of the mode proposed by the House of Commons, and that which was contained in the bill.
§ The Marquess of Lansdowne
considered it most extraordinary, that noble Lords opposite should wish these trusts to vest in the ex-mayor, or ex-aldermen, after they had been accused and convicted before Parliament of a mal-administration of those very charities, and had been expelled from office on those very grounds.
avowed, that he felt a strong political bias, but if he had ever allowed his political feelings to influence his conduct as Chancellor, his conduct would have been most base and unworthy of his trust. He repelled the imputation which had been cast upon him with scorn, of which it was impossible for him to state the degree. If he was a person of that sort and description as would listen to the representations of political partisans, he was unfit and unworthy for the high office he had the honour to fill, and ought to be removed from it. But by the mode in which these appointments were made, a mode precisely similar to that pursued by the Court of Chancery in England, it was impossible for him as Chancellor of Ireland to interfere, except on a disputed appointment. The Chancellor never took upon himself any one of these offices, and if any person should come to him with a political story in his mouth, and recommend individuals as trustees or receivers, that person would be guilty of a gross contempt of court, and the Chancellor, if he listened to any such application, would be guilty of a gross abandonment of his duty. All these appointments were made on a reference to one of the Masters of the 1043 Court, and the Chancellor himself knew nothing about them, unless exceptions were taken to the Master's report; and on behalf of the Masters of the Court of Chancery in Ireland, he begged to state, that no set of men could have discharged the duties imposed upon them more faithfully and impartially; but if political bias could have any effect, as had been suggested, and which he denied, upon those who had sworn duties to perform, he must remark, that the great proportion of the Masters in Chancery in Ireland were gentlemen with whose politics he had not the good fortune to agree. He must add, that this had been a most wanton and uncalled for attack upon individuals who were sworn to administer impartial justice. He was sure, that the Masters in Ireland had not pursued any course of conduct which was not the result of their unbiassed judgment. For himself, he would say, that he had no desire to undertake the discharge of the duties connected with those appointments; and, with regard to what had been suggested, he would only add, that the whole of his conduct in the court over which he had the honour to preside, and his whole life, was the best answer to the imputation that he had violated a sworn duty.
§ Lord Lyndhurst
said, that lie had before co-operated with his noble and learned Friend on the Woolsack, in arranging bills of very great and vast importance, and he begged to assure him, that he should be most happy to co-operate with him in the production of a bill for the regulation of trusteeships generally throughout the country. He would not say one word as to the manner in which his noble and learned Friend had exercised the duties imposed upon him in reference to the trusteeships of corporation charities, but he was bound to state, that he continually received from all quarters statements complaining that the great majority of the trustees appointed through the intervention of the Court of Chancery—not immediately under the eye of his noble and learned Friend—were warm and violent political partisans; and to obviate this evil, it was, that he, for one, objected to the alteration in this clause which had been introduced by the House of Commons. Owing to the indisposition of a noble and learned Friend, not now in his place (Lord Brougham), the proceedings, with his proposed bill for the regulation of charitable trusteeships had been suspended, and the 1044 appointments had consequently been thrown into the hands of the Court of Chancery, and the result had practically been (though not intended by his noble and learned Friend on the woolsack), that party appointments had been made. He had received recently a letter from Bristol on this subject, from which he would read one passage, and then show the letter to his noble and learned Friend. It was from a gentleman with whom he was wholly unacquainted, it was dated the 7th of July, 1838, and signed "Christopher George," who described himself to be a town-councillor of the city of Bristol, and he stated, that in that city the management of the municipal charities had fallen into the administration of a set of trustees, twenty-one in number, and of whom eighteen were what were called Liberals, and a large number were Dissenters. He went on to add, "that the members of the Established Church in Bristol regretted to see the charities founded by the pious Whiteson and Carr for the advancement of the Protestant Established Church superintended and conducted by a board of trustees composed of Baptists, Socinians, and Quakers." "Surely," added the writer, "surely this ought not to be." It was his wish to remedy the evil, and for this purpose he thought that the admininistration of charitable trusts in Ireland should remain in the hands of the persons who now held them, until Parliament should pass a general measure for the regulation of charities. He did not deny, that there were difficulties in the way, but he should be happy to co-operate most heartily and cordially with his noble and learned Friend on the woolsack, in meeting those difficulties.
§ The Lord Chancellor
said, he could not answer an opinion of Mr. Christopher George, an individual whom his noble and learned Friend did not know, nor could he vouch, that any such person existed. He could, however, state, that the case of Bristol had never been brought before him, (the Lord Chancellor) for the Master's report was confirmed without opposition, all parties being satisfied with the appointments that had been made.
§ Clause, with certain amendments, agreed to.
§ The other amendments were gone through, and a Committee appointed to manage the conference with the House of Commons.