The Marquess of Normanby
was anxious to call the attention of their Lordships to a petition, of which he had given his noble and learned Friend on the Woolsack notice, as it referred to some statements made by his noble and learned Friend on a former evening, when he had occasion to present a petition from the town-council of Hull. The petition which he had now to lay before their Lordships was from the mayor and town-council of Gateshead, and they complained that his noble and learned Friend had been misinformed, or had fallen into an involuntary error when he stated on the evening referred to that in the appointment of magistrates of boroughs he had in no case reversed the position of the Liberals and Conservatives by taking the majority from 1238 the former and giving it to the latter. The petitioners stated that in the case of their own borough, the number of Conservative magistrates were so increased that the Liberals were now in the minority. The statement made by his noble and learned Friend on the former evening went on to add, that it had not been his intention to swamp the Liberal magistrates by an overflow of Conservatives, but rather to dilute the bodies already existing by a fair admixture with the Liberals, which, in every case, he found to constitute the great majority. Now, that statement of his noble and learned Friend, put as it had been by him in his Usual able manner, was calculated to produce, and, in fact, had produced, a very great effect; but On examining the returns more closely it would be found that the statements of his noble and learned Friend had not been borne out by the fact. The Liberal majority had been reversed in Bath, so it had been in Chester, and in one or two other places. He was anxious to direct the attention of his noble and learned Friend to those particulars which he conceived to be at variance with the statements made on a former occasion. His complaint was, that about 300 magistrates had been created by his noble and learned Friend without reference to any public body as to the fitness of the parties so selected.
The Lord Chancellor
Said, that it was very irksome to him to be called up night after night to enter into explanations of statements made by him with respect to particular boroughs, and it must be irksome to their Lordships to sit and hear these dry details. He owned that he could not but admire the nonchalance of his noble Friend, who, after a lapse of two or three weeks, brought forward two or three cases in which he contended that the position of the Liberal and Conservative magistrates had been reversed, and the majority taken from the former and given to the latter. In the case to which the noble Marquess had particularly referred, and of which notice had been given, he trusted he should be able at once to give satisfactory information. Had the noble Marquess given notice of his intention of bringing Bath and Chester under the consideration of the House, he had no doubt he should have been able to have given an explanation equally satisfactory; but it was really too much out of 142 boroughs to call upon him, without previous notice, to give an account of the manner in which the ap- 1239 pointments had been made in one or two cases selected for the purpose. He trusted he might be able to give a satisfactory explanation with respect to Gateshead. Before he did so, perhaps their Lordships would allow him to state the position in which ministers were placed when they first came into office. There were in the county of Durham five very populous boroughs. Gateshead was one, Sunderland was another, Stockton-on-Tees was a third, Durham a fourth, and lastly, there was the populous borough of South Shields. Would their Lordships credit it without further evidence, that at the moment they came into office, in these five boroughs, populous as they were, and with so many magistrates, there was only one Conservative justice of the peace? Three of these boroughs were boroughs made by the Reform Bill, and the whole of the boroughs were almost exclusively governed at the period to which he had referred by magistrates of the same party, of the same principles, and of the same politics as the noble Marquess. Having stated this, he would explain the particular case of Gateshead. Gateshead was situated in an extremely populous district, requiring a great number of magistrates, and was not easily managed by six magistrates. Of these six magistrates one was a Conservative and five were in the Whig interest. Such was the example set him by the noble Marquess. Now the influence of magistrates over the elections for Members of Parliament was by no means inconsiderable. They exercised a great influence in the licensing of public houses, and what would their Lordships say when he told them that the noble Marquess's friends had taken care that the one Conservative magistrate of Gateshead should have no influence in the licensing of public houses? It so happened that this one Conservative was a brewer, and his profession, by law, excluded him from all participation in the licensing of public houses. As Gateshead was a very populous place, they (the Ministers) had considered that six magistrates were not a sufficient number, particularly as one of them resided seven miles from the place. They had, therefore, appointed six additional magistrates, and in so doing they had readjusted the balance between the two political parties. The situation of Gateshead, moreover, was of a peculiar nature. It was divided only by the river From Newcastle, so that the two towns might be said to form only one, in the 1240 same way as London and Southwark. Now, in Newcastle there had been only one Conservative to ten whig magistrates. The noble Marquess was a consummate actor. A remarkable circumstance had struck him, in looking over the returns which had been laid before Parliament relative to this subject. On a former evening the noble Marquess stated as evidence of his great moderation and forbearance, that although he had held the office of Secretary for the Home Department for a year and a half or two years, he had not during that time appointed more than fifty or sixty magistrates. Why, the fact was, the noble Marquess, on entering office, found the bench choke full of Whigs and Radicals, and he had no occasion to exert himself in the matter. It was true, that the noble Marquess remained quiet for a long period after entering upon his office; but when did he first begin to appoint magistrates? It was important that their Lordships should look to that point. The noble Marquess first began to appoint magistrates about the end of May, and the dissolution of Parliament took plaee in the middle of June. The appointments were made preparatory to that event. Eight magistrates were appointed in Birmingham, five at Harwich, three at Northampton, one in the sacred borough of Taunton, five at Bridgewater, and three at Hastings; in every one of which boroughs severe and active contests took place at the general election. Thus twenty-four magistrates out of fifty were appointed just on the eve of a general election. Up to that period, the noble Marquess had staid his hand, being of opinion that there was no necessity to appoint fresh magistrates for the performance of ordinary magisterial duties, but then he all at once appointed twenty-four, and who could doubt the motive of the act? When he spoke of motives, he meant merely party motives; he did not wish to carry the matter further. After these appointments, the general election took place, and nothing further was done by the noble Marquess for a considerable time. Every thing that could be done as regarded the election had been done; but on the 19th of August, the very day of the meeting of Parliament, when the fate of the Government was decided, the noble Marquess began to renew his activity. Then was the time for the Ministers to reward their partisans; they felt it necessary to make the most of their time, and 1241 accordingly between the 19th of August and the 27th of that month, a period of eight days, how many magistrates did their Lordships suppose the noble Marquess created? Only thirty-three. That made up the number of fifty-seven appointed by the noble Marquess under such circumstances, and yet the noble Marquess took credit for his abstinence and forbearance! How, after having pursued such a course of conduct, the noble Marquess could have ventured to renew the attack upon him, was indeed astonishing. One word more with respect to following the advice given by the town-councils. It was all very well to follow the advice of those bodies when they were of the same politics with yourselves. But what had been the conduct of the late Ministers with respect to Poole? This was a case to which he ought to have referred the other night? At the time of the passing of the Municipal Reform Bill, there was a Conservative town-council in Poole, and they recommended seven persons, and very proper persons they were too, to the Secretary for the Home Department, to be appointed magistrates. What did Lord John Russell do? He rejected every one of them, and he appointed six Whig or Radical magistrates, and one Conservative. Who was the Conservative? It was quite astonishing to observe with what perspicacity this single exception to the general rule was made. The Conservative appointed by Lord John Russell actually voted for Sir J. Byng at the election. Really the noble Marquess ought to be cautious in meddling with this subject. He had referred to only one case; but he could assure the House, that he had a whole batch of them at hand. So utterly untenable was the position which the noble Marquess had taken up, that he could not even guess at the motives which had influenced him in calling the attention of the House to the subject, unless it was intended as a piece of practical irony. The noble Marquess must surely have intended to say, in effect, "Ah, you Ministers do not know how to reward your partisans; we are the people without scruple, without measure, without stint, to reward and support those who adhere to us, and are our partisans in politics." In conclusion, he must express a hope that their Lordships would think the explanation which he had given satisfactory, and that, at all events, if he had sinned, his offence was scarcely visible in comparison with the accumulated mass of sin committed by the late Government.
The Marquess of Normanby
observed, that the returns before the House contradicted the statement which the noble and learned Lord had made, no doubt on misinformation, on a former evening. The noble and learned Lord then stated distinctly, that in no case had he reversed the majority; but he had stated four instances in which that had been done, and he could have gone further. The fact was admitted with respect to Gateshead, and if the noble and learned Lord had looked to Bath, he would have found that he had been deceived by the information on which he had made his statement on a former occasion. As to what the noble and learned Lord culled the accumulated sins of the late Government, and what had happened during the last month of his administration of the Home Office, he utterly denied and repudiated the notion that he had made any addition to the magistracy with a view to the election. The case of Birmingham had nothing to do with the election. After the riots which occurred in that town, and the doubts which prevailed with respect to the validity of the charter, many of the magistrates refused to act, and it was absolutely necessary for the due administration of justice to appoint fresh ones. Bridgewater was a similar case. A majority of the magistrates declined to act, and the remaining magistrates made a representation to the Home Office, stating that they were so confined to the discharge of the duties of their office that they could not stir from their homes, and, in consequence, additional magistrates were appointed there. At York, also, he had added four magistrates, on receiving a representation that the number of acting magistrates there was insufficient. But had he in that case sought to advance the interests of the party with which he was politically connected? No; he appointed two Whigs and two Conservatives. It was easy for the noble Lord to state that such motives had influenced the appointments generally; but as he had stated, speaking from recollection merely, that in the cases to which he had referred no such motives had regulated his conduct, their Lordships were bound to give him credit for having acted in the same spirit upon other occasions. The noble and learned Lord had been pleased to suppose that he had intended his interference in this matter as a piece of practical irony, with the view of showing that the present Government were 1243 not sufficiently ready to patronise their friends, but would the country entertain that opinion when they saw that the present Administration had appointed up awards of 360 magistrates of one particular class of politics, who were called for by no necessity? It might be very convenient for the noble and learned Lord to assign particular motives for the appointments made by the late Government, and to receive their Lordships' cheers for doing so; but he was not afraid of any such motives being imputed to them by the public. The country would perceive that he had called attention to a circumstance which it was important should be noticed, namely, that a great addition had been made to the magistracy without consultation with the town-councils, but upon private communications received from political partisans.
The Lord Chancellor
read from a return the names of places in which the late Government had appointed thirty-three magistrates between the meeting of Parliament and the 27th of August.
The Marquess of Londonderry
was surprised, that after what transpired on this subject on a former evening, the noble Marquess should have again brought it forward. That, however, was a matter of taste. His noble and learned Friend on the Woolsack had properly alluded to the accumulation of sins on the noble Marquess, in consequence of his appointments of borough magistrates. A reference to Sunderland would show some ground for this accumulation. In Sunderland the ten magistrates were all Whigs, and they would not grant a licenee for a public-house to any but their own party. In Gateshead there had been an addition of some two or three Conservatives, but still, taking the two together, the balance of both parties would be found equal. With regard to the county of Durham, if the noble Marquess challenged the appointments in the boroughs, let him look to those of that county. Did he know the state of that county with respect to the magistracy? It consisted of about fifty magistrates, out of which only sixteen were Conservatives and all the rest were Whigs. He had lately received a communication from a highly respectable gentleman at South Shields to this effect, that the borough of South Shields was happily not one of the municipal corporations; that the magistrates were necessarily those 1244 of the county; but that with a population of 25,000 inhabitants there was only one resident magistrate; that that magistrate was assisted by others residing in the neighbourhood, but that they were Whigs, and he did not hesitate to declare that the Conservative party were not satisfied with such a state of the magistracy. That was the state of the county of Durham, and of all places, that was the last that the noble Marquess should have chosen as the subject of his animadversions. He was the last man, too, who should have made such an attack on that (the Ministerial) side of the House with regard to the appointment of magistrates.
The Marquess of Normanby
utterly denied all the imputations and suspicions of the noble Marquess, and would assert that they were utterly groundless and without foundation. He had received a petition from a respectable body of persons, who desired him to present it to their Lordships, and in what he considered to be the discharge of his duly he did present it. But he would not allow the noble Marquess or any other person to throw any imputation upon him for doing that which he considered the proper discharge of his duty.
The Marquess of Londonderry
said, he thought the noble Marquess was acting now upon information as erroneous as that he had acted on in Ireland; but the noble Marquess had certainly received such a castigation that he doubted whether he would ever touch the matter again.
The Earl of Radnor
could not help expressing his unfeigned disgust at the mode of appointing the magistracy attributed to his noble Friend, and admitted and defended by the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack. He knew not whether his noble Friends who were lately in office had acted in the way imputed to them by the noble and learned Lord, but if they had, and the noble and learned Lord could justify the assertions he had made then he could only say that the noble and learned Lord ought to get some Friend in the other House of Parliament to impeach the late Administration. The noble and learned Lord said, that the appointments were made for election purposes, and to reward friends and followers. If that were so, it was a high crime and misdemeanour; and if the noble and learned Lord's imputation were founded on facts, and he could bring proofs of it, then the noble and 1245 learned Lordo ught to procure some person in the other House to get up articles of impeachment against his noble Friend below him (the Marquess of Normanby) and Lord J. Russell for their conduct. But he would go further; he could not but express his surprise at the line taken by the noble and learned Lord upon this occasion. The noble and learned Lord had thrown out imputations against the late Government for the mode in which they had acted; but he justified the proceedings of himself in the appointment of magistrates by the example of his noble Friend, and the necessity of having an equal number of magistrates of different politics on the bench. Now, it was not said, that any magistrate who had been appointed had acted improperly, and he should have thought, that before other magistrates were appointed, the inquiry should have been, not what were their politics, but what was their conduct; not whether they were Whig or Tory, but whether they had conducted themselves properly, and with satisfaction to the people. The noble and learned Lord, however, said nothing upon that subject. But the noble Marquess who spoke last, expressly stated, the other day, and it was also stated in the letter, part of which the noble Marquess had just read, that none of the magistrates of whom complaint was made, because they were not Conservatives, had suffered their politics to influence their conduct on the bench. Why, then, were they to be arraigned? Or why were the persons who appointed them to be arraigned for doing so, and to be charged with appointing them for party purposes? But what he most deprecated, was the sort of justification and the defence of such conduct laid down by the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack. It was the last that such a person as the noble and learned Lord, in the situation which he filled, ought to tolerate—it was the one he ought most to abjure; it was contrary to every principle of justice. Having heard the speech from the noble and learned Lord, he could not refrain from putting in one word for the people of England, and to protest against the idea that justice was to be administered, not by fit persons, qualified by their behaviour, good conduct, or general demeanour in the situation of magistrates, but in consequence of their politics. He protested against the doctrine, as most improper, 1246 and one that was likely to produce disapprobation amongst the people as to the mode of administering justice in this country.
§ The Earl of Warwick
said, that with respect to the licensing of public-houses, the magistrates having been appointed as political agents themselves, could not be found fault with for the houses they licensed. In the town in which he himself lived, there had not been, since the Municipal Corporation Act, a single house licensed that had not belonged to one party. That operated in the strongest manner. The town of Birmingham had been mentioned; now in that borough, under the Municipal Bill, there were appointed twenty-five borough magistrates, of whom four were Conservatives, one was doubtful, and the other twenty were Liberals. To Coventry twelve magistrates had been given; rather an over-proportion; and how were they divided? Every one was a Liberal, The next town was Warwick; there, out of six magistrates, five were Liberals, and only one Conservative. At Stratford-on-Avon, there were two Liberals and one neutral. But what was the state of the county of Warwick when the present Administration came into office? How many did their Lordships think were Conservative magistrates? Out of upwards of forty, there was but one.
The Marquess of Normanby
said, the, noble Earl who had just spoken, had charged the magistrates of Warwick with giving licences expressly to people of their own political opinions; but he wished to ask the noble Earl whether he had ever ascertained that that was really the fact?
§ The Earl of Warwick
observed, that it was very easy for the magistrates to say to different applicants for licences that they thought such a man was better than another.
The Marquess of Normanby
said, he had been charged with appointing magistrates at particular periods; but he could only say, that he appointed them when representations were made to him by town-councils of the necessity for more magistrates for the administration of justice, and he did think that he should have departed from his duty if he had been guided by any prospective feeling of the duration of the Government, or if he had not done that which it was ob- 1247 viously his duty to do by appointing magistrates.
§ The Duke of Wellington
said, that in consequence of what had fallen from the noble Earl on the other side, he thought it right to call the attention of their Lordships to what his noble and learned Friend had stated upon this subject some evenings ago. His noble and learned Friend stated then, that having found on examining the lists of magistrates that they had been appointed generally on party principles, he had considered it his duty to remedy that evil, and inconvenient, as it undoubtedly was, because there was no doubt that, however well a man might conduct himself in performing his duties as a magistrate, yet there was a decided majority on one side, and that it shook the confidence which the people had in the administration of justice; his noble and learned Friend stated, that he had reviewed those lists of magistrates, and thought it his duty to place them more nearly upon an equality with respect to party than they had been theretofore; but his noble and learned Friend said, that in no instance, to the best of his recollection, had he made any sudden change in the party who had the majority in the corporations which he had under his revisal. Under those circumstances, he must say, that his noble and learned Friend had not rendered himself liable to the attack made on him by the noble Earl on the other side. He thought it right to call their attention to what his noble and learned Friend stated, to show that he did not deserve that charge made against him. The noble Marquess said, that his noble and learned Friend had not acted exactly in the way laid down in former instances. He was not sufficiently informed to know how the matter stood in the particular cases mentioned by the noble Marquess, but this he must say, that his noble and learned Friend was not liable to be charged with having established the appointment of magistrates on party principles; on the contrary, he had endeavoured to establish in that House the principle of the appointment of magistrates for the performance of a duty; and so little for party principles as this, that he was cautious not to make too sudden a change of the party who happened to have the majority in the corporations to which he had directed his attention.
The Lord Chancellor
said, that if the 1248 noble Earl had been present on the other evening, he would have heard him quote on that occasion the opinion of a noble Baron now no more, whose opinions were always held in that House in the greatest respect, and also the opinion of his noble Friend who had lately occupied the Woolsack. He stated that those opinions were the guide of his conduct with respect to the magistracy, and that he had acted in strict conformity with them. As the noble Earl was not present he would quote them again, and it should be observed that it was with reference to a similar question that they had been expressed. The late Lord Holland said—The real responsibility of appointing magistrates rests with the Lord Chancellor, and it is the duty of that high functionary to recommend only such persons as he deems duly qualified to discharge the important duties reposed in them. I do not mean to impugn the motives or question the actions of men of any political party; but, in common, I believe, with the great mass of the country, I think, if men of one particular class alone are admitted to this important office, though justice itself may not be corrupted, the administration of it may be subject to doubt and suspicion.His noble and learned Friend expressed himself in terms more decided; he said—It is my opinion (this he read in the presence of his noble and learned Friend) that there should be an admixture of the opinions of both parties.And that was said in vindicating him-self when he was attacked in reference to his appointment of magistrates.
said, that the late Lord Holland not only had the opinion just quoted by the noble and learned Lord, but always acted upon it.
The Earl of Radnor,
in reply, said he agreed in all that was reported to have been said by the two noble Lords, and he wished that those opinions had always been conformed to.
§ Lord Wharncliffe
said it was, in his opinion, very inconvenient that questions should arise in that House respecting the appointment of magistrates. It should always be assumed, that a magistrate would act independently; he had sworn to do so, and it should be assumed that he would do so. But his noble and learned Friend's defence was this—that he found when he came into office that the late Ministry had filled the bench with persons holding their own political opinions. The noble Earl opposite had asked, if there 1249 had been any complaints? Although there might not have been any from the town-council, there had been complaints from persons in the places where the persons acted, and there did grow up an opinion in those places that justice was not fairly administered; and it was, therefore, the duty of the Lord Chancellor to reform the bench, and to give people a confidence in the administration of justice. He acknowledged to have made the motion to which Lord Holland had alluded, and he did it as a warning. He saw that the Ministers were filling the bench with their own adherents, and when Lord John Russell avowedly, in the other house, said he would do it, he took the opportunity of protesting against it.
§ Discussion at an end.