HL Deb 11 August 1842 vol 65 cc1298-300
Lord Brougham

adverting to a bill for facilitating compositions with creditors, which he had withdrawn a few nights ago, remarked that there was another bill (the Insolvent Debtor's Relief Bill), which he had presented at the same time, and which he rejoiced to say had passed both Houses of Parliament, and it was due to her Majesty's Government that he should first of all in his own name, express to them the great gratitude he felt for the hearty, steady and efficient support which they had afforded to this most important amendment of the law; but next that he should also express the gratitude of the unfortunate persons who were the more immediate objects of the measure, and of the creditors of those persons. This was not the only amendment of the law which had been made by her Majesty's Government during the present Session. Bills had been introduced by his noble and learned Friend (The Lord Chancellor) he only wished they had all passed, which were a great improvement of the law indeed. The extension of the system of bankrupt law, established by him (Lord Brougham) in London and the neighbouring district, eleven years ago, all over the country, he thought was a measure of the greatest importance to our jurisprudence and to our commercial interests, and he had no doubt it would be found to work as admirably in the country as it was admitted to have worked in the capital. There was another bill introduced by his noble and learned Friend (the Lunacy Bill), which he believed to be of importance, and he hoped for great advantage from its operation. The Chancery Bill similar to the one he (Lord Brougham) had presented in 1833, and only partially carried, was another material amendment of the system. These improvements of the law were not only a great good of themselves, but they were the seeds from which still greater good was likely to spring, being like the kindly fruits of the earth not only adapted themselves to our use but giving hopes of a richer and more abundant harvest. It did, however, chance that some of these seeds were found to fall among thorns, which sprang up and choked them. This had happened to some of the most valuable of the measures of his noble and learned Friend. The bare weeds of self-interest had been interposed; he might well call them thorns, for their motto was the motto of the thistle, "touch me who dare." Nothing but the firmness of his noble and learned Friend and his Colleagues, both in this and the other House, could have secured the passing of these important measures which were now the law of the land. But his noble and learned Friend had been exposed in his reforms to the hostility of the self-same interest which had been arranged to thwart the progress of his (Lord Brougham's) measures, when the present bankruptcy system was originally introduced in 1831. The charge brought against that bill was that it would prove ruinous to London bankers by taking out so much of the money of bankrupts' estates, which bad remained locked up there through the neglect of assignees. Certain it was that within two or three years from the passing of the act, upwards of 2,000,000l. sterling, was obtained through its operation, and distributed among the creditors in the administration of Bankrupts' estates; and he had no doubt his noble and learned Friend would next Session have to declare a similar result from his bill, as applied to the country districts. He well recollected a much honoured and independent Member of the other House, his lamented Friend, Mr. John Smith, meeting this clamour at once, by avowing that the operation of the bill (1831) would be such as had been described. He said, that the house in which he was principal partner would lose five or six thousand a-year—but he added, that so far from this being art argument against the bill, it was the strongest reason for passing it; because such gains could only be made by bankers, through the neglect of assignees in performing their duty. He (Lord Brougham) did not understand that any country banker had on the present occasion taken the same disinterested course. No one had at all imitated Mr. John Smith. Unhappily his noble and learned Friend's other measure — the County Courts Bill—had for the present yielded to the like interested opposition. Indivi- duals having a personal, pecunary, particular interest in courts of request, courts of hundreds, and other local courts, had proved too many for his noble Friend and himself, and for the present they had failed. He differed from his noble and learned Friend as to one important principle of the bill, upon which local tribunals should be established. His noble and learned Friend recommended an ambulatory court, while he (Lord Brougham) preferred one of a stationary character; but that there ought to be county courts of extended jurisdiction no one who had considered the subject without the bias of sinister interests could entertain a doubt. He hoped, when next he brought forward this important subject, his noble and learned Friend would not have to encounter any such selfish and factious opposition, and that soon they would have a system introduced for bringing home cheap, effectual and pure justice to the doors of the people of this country. He had a right to expect that those noble Friends of his who had the patronage of the local courts likely to be injured by the measure, would be found wholly above all wish to oppose it on that ground. Why did he entertain this expectation? Because when his more extensive measure was brought forward in 1833, those noble persons, generally speaking, gave it their support, regardless Of its interference with their patronage. Having always, in his own sphere, and according to the measure of his power, done his utmost to further the amendment of the laws, he felt he should not have been discharging his duty, if he had suffered the present occasion to pass without again declaring his heartfelt gratitude to the Government for their support of those measures, and his anxious hope that their efforts in the same direction might be still more fortunate next Session. Much had already been done, and that to him was an encouragement to hope and trust that still more would hereafter be accomplished, to the incalculable benefit of the people of this country.

Subject at an end.

House adjourned.