moved for certain returns relative to the state of the appeal business in the House of Lords and the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council; and in making this motion he would take the opportunity to refer to the proceedings of the Criminal Law Commissioners. Those Gentlemen had laboured assiduously and successfully, and if their Lordships would look to their reports, they would find them to be altogether invaluable, not only in respect to the statute and common law, as it now stood, as relating to crimes, but also in respect to the discussion of the various objections to the different branches of it which had ever been suggested, and of the various propositions ever made on sound principles for its safe and wholesome improvement. He thought it fit shortly to state the different labours of those commissioners. Their first report on the Prisoners' Counsel Bill wholly exhausted that subject, and, he believed, made a convert of his noble and learned Friend on the Woolsack. Next came their important reports on the punishment of death, which subject they thoroughly discussed; and the result of their labours on this subject was the introduction into Parliament, by Lord John Russell, of nine bills, which had had the effect of wholly abolishing the punishment of death in every case unattended with personal violence. Their next report was a general one on the statute law, with a view to a digest of that law. This report was of the greatest importance, and it contained an appendix of obsolete or partially repealed laws. There were many cases with respect to which doubts existed whether they were or were not law? and in the matter of a legal digest, there was such a great deficiency that, as was shewn by the commissioners, there did not exist anything like a correct index of the statute law. He would state a fact illustrative of the inconvenience arising from this deficiency, and it was this, that a gentleman, who was much engaged in drawing up Acts of 954 Parliament (Mr. D. Bethune), was constantly employed for one whole week in discovering, through the mass of the statute law, whether an important clause in an act of Parliament was repealed or not. It would be obvious to their Lordships that the same difficulty might have arisen on a trial, and then justice could not have been done, except in the slovenly way of convicting first and pardoning afterwards. He had been told by several judges that the book they now resorted to in order to ascertain what was not unrepealed criminal statute law, and other law as well, was the digest of these commissioners, which had been laid on the Table of the House, and the consequence of the want of such a work had been that sentences had been passed in respect of enactments which were repealed. An important and valuable digest of the criminal laws had been completed by the commissioners, with the exception of their eighth report, and which in a few months would be laid before Parliament—he meant the report on criminal procedure. It contained, under each head, a long introductory chapter explaining the general principles of the criminal law and its state in England; of the objections taken to parts, and of the amendments suggested, and in every case of statutory enactment they had preserved the very words of the statute. This had been objected to by some as conducive to wrong, and it was asked why had they not given better words. Their reason for choosing the words of the statutes was good—it was because the Legislature had chosen them, and because the decisions of the courts of justice had affixed a meaning to them, and that, therefore, though the words might have been originally wrong, defective and inaccurate, yet they retained them because the decisions of the judges had cleared up the doubts. He thought the adoption of the language was a wise and judicious course, and he was satisfied that when the commission had completed its labours a work of singular value and of great importance in the administration of justice would be achieved. From an ill-judged and inconsiderate notion of economy, it was at one time contemplated to proceed no further with the labours of the commission, and it was said by some, "We have enough of commissioners;" but he had been always anxious that the commissioners should proceed, for if they stopped from the econo- 955 mical notion of saving 2,000l. or 2,500l. the work, though of course not wholly useless, would be at the best imperfect, and therefore he gave great credit to those who proceeded with the commission with a view to bringing its labours to a complete conclusion. It might give some idea of what the commission had performed to state that the seven reports already furnished filled 1,100 folio pages. The labours of the commissioners had been appreciated in other countries, such as Germany, Italy, and the United States, where the reports obtained great credit, and in Germany particularly they were made the subject of lectures. He wished that he could have said more with respect to the improvement of the law during the present Session, yet some improvements had been made which were worthy of remark. That with respect to the nullum tempus of the Church was one, and it was an improvement which ought to have taken place ten years ago. Another improvement had taken place as regarded the registration of voters, and an improvement had likewise been made in the measure relating to the Judicial committee of the Privy Council. He would also admit that a great improvement had been made during the Session as regarded mechanics' institutes, public libraries, and other institutions for the promotion of knowledge and science, by exempting them from all rates, whether general or parochial.
The Lord Chancellor
was happy to join his noble Friend in bearing his testimony to the great merit and labour of the gentlemen employed in the criminal-law commission, who had been appointed to inquire into and report on that branch of our jurisprudence. It was impossible for inquiries to be more ably conducted or reports more judiciously drawn up; and he considered their labours as likely to be of the greatest importance and benefit to the country. He was anxious to take that opportunity to advert to another subject—the act appointing the judicial committee of the Privy Council as a Court of Appeal. At the time when that act was passed, it was much opposed by several members of the profession, and it was considered not likely to be beneficial without a permanent president. The result had certainly shown that a permanent president, though none had been appointed, would be advantageous. He could not say from experience, for his noble and 956 learned Friend (Lord Brougham) though not appointed, had fulfilled the duties of a president, that the result had proved that those who had framed the law were not disappointed. He thought it due to their Lordships and to his noble and learned Friend to make this statement, and to bear his testimony to the advantage which had been conferred on the country by the labours of his noble and learned Friend.
must join his testimony to that of his noble and learned Friends, and bear his share in the tribute of applause which the criminal-law commissioners justly deserved. He hoped that their labours were not to be lost, though he had heard it rumoured that a distinguished gentleman in another place had said that there were not sufficient means to carry their report into effect. He trusted, however, that there could be no objection to drawing up a digest of our criminal law, and reducing that law into a code. There was no country in Europe without such a code, and as he was persuaded that it would be very easy to make a code of the English criminal law, he hoped that this reproach would soon be wiped away from the country. With respect to the civil law the case was different, and he did not think that it would be so easy or beneficial to draw up a code of our civil laws. His noble and learned Friend had in some measure forestalled him in making some observations on the labours of the Session, and his noble and learned Friend, who was such a great master of eloquence, and could discourse equally at length on a ribbon or a rapier, had said a great deal about very small matters. Nevertheless, though his noble and learned Friend had said so much, he had forgotten several things, of some of which he must remind his noble Friend. He would not now go at length, as he had proposed, into the reforms which had been promised but not performed. If he were disposed to do so he should be deterred by the example of his noble Friend. He remembered, too, the Latin maxim: Qui procumbit humi, non habet unde cadet He was impressed with a due sense of the place occupied by his noble and learned Friend, and would not seek to place him on a lower level. His noble and learned Friend had good reason for touching the affairs of the Session so lightly, and had showed his exceedingly great discretion, 957 with his great powers, not to go at greater length into the subject. His noble and learned Friend had forgotten that great measure, the Affidavits Bill. Under these circumstances, when his noble and learned Friend could find nothing better to say of the Session than that it had passed the bill to relieve mechanics' institutions, he might abstain from saving anything more on the labours of the Session. When the effects of the Session were so small that his noble and learned Friend could find nothing else to praise, it could answer no purpose for him, to prove that nothing important had been done. He was satisfied the ground taken by his noble and learned Friend had entirely taken away the ground on which he meant to found his censures.
said, his noble and learned Friend was facetious on him for having thought it his duty to attract their Lordships' attention to the criminal law commissioners, and some improvements which had been made in the law during the present Session. He did not know that, for these observations, he had deserved the attack of his noble and learned Friend. His noble and learned Friend had himself forgotten one great improvement which had been made this Session though his noble and learned Friend had got a new light—he meant in the Reform Bill, which his noble and learned Friend used to think of great importance; and the Registration Bill, passed this Session, had extended the franchise, and removed many restrictions on the electors. He was always glad to promote a bill having such an effect, and he had cheerfully supported it, as it increased the number of electors, and improved the Reform Bill. With respect to the bill for relieving mechanics' institutions, that was a measure which he had presented petitions in favour of for several years, and he regretted that never till now was that measure passed. As his noble and learned Friend said, he was thankful for small mercies, and thankful to those at whose hands those blessing were received. He certainly could have wished that more had been done; but through much had been done, it was bad policy to exaggerate it. He remembered the French proverb, that "the sure way to diminish was to exaggerate." He had not, therefore, exaggerated what had been done, nor would he exaggerate. With reference to the law 958 of libel and defamation, a decided improvement had been effected, but much remained to be done. He hoped by the next Session the Members of the other House, though he was really afraid to say a word about them one way or another, lest he should be pounced upon by his noble and learned Friend, who had become of late Attorney-general for the House of Commons in that House—he trusted that the Members of the House of Commons would by the next Session have carefully perused the report on the subject, which some of them perhaps were not aware of—which was now on their Lordships' Table, and also that invaluable report on the law of libel and slander, which constituted the seventh report of the Criminal Law Commissioners. The careful perusal of these reports could not but induce them to effect further improvements upon this subject. There was another bill which had passed that House, mid which he hoped would receive the sanction of the other House of Parliament, the enactment of which would confer benefits of a widely extended nature—he referred to the bill for the more effectual suppression of the slave trade. He had seen a great many attacks made upon himself and some of his friends with reference to this subject, but neither he nor his friends cared for these attacks, so that the House of Commons passed the bill. He had, among other things, been charged with ignorance upon the subject; but though he certainly had studied the question for forty-two years, and had had a very considerable share in all the bills which had, during that period, been enacted with reference to the suppression of the slave-trade, he was willing to put up with even this terrible charge, so that the Commons passed the bill. He was quite sure that, at all events, no one would think of imputing ignorance or absurdity to his right hon. Friend Mr. Lushington, the author, or to Mr. Bilden, the framer of the bill; for himself, he was the author of only the first section, though responsible for the general superintendence of the measure in that House. Another measure of great importance would result from the present Session—the bill for the amendment of the Irish Poor-law Act. He had, in the first instance, opposed that poor-law measure, but the bill of this Session would effect such valuable improvement in it, that it well nigh removed his objections. 959 On the other hand, the Ecclesiastical Courts Bill, the County Courts Bill, and the Factories Bill, with its education clauses, had not been proceeded with. He deeply regretted that these bills had not passed into laws, but he must really point out to his noble and learned Friend that, in point of fact, the delay which had been occasioned in the other House by the protracted discussion of a particular bill, occasioned the loss, for the present Session, of the three bills in question. It was to be observed, with reference to the bill which had occasioned this delay, that of all the divisions which were taken against it, and the discussion upon it which created the delay, not one succeeded. Clauses had, indeed, been withdrawn and alterations made by Government in other clauses, but, from an examination of the votes, he found that not one of the divisions taken by the adversaries of the bill succeeded; and the delay which had thus been occasioned might, in causing the postponement of these three measures, do more harm than the passing of the particular measure might do good.
said, that the bill which had been described as increasing the franchises, increased, it was true, the Tory votes, by increasing the tenant-at-will votes but it greatly diminished the Liberal votes, by the clause respecting charitable trusts. He did not know whether this was what his noble and learned friend liked about it. He would just observe, that the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack was somewhat in error when he spoke of his noble and learned Friend (Lord Brougham) as being de jure and de facto president of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. No one would dispute for an instant the important services which his noble and learned Friend rendered to the public as a distinguished member of that committee, or the ability and eloquence of the judgments which he delivered there: but those judgments were delivered only in his turn, as a member of the committee, and by no means in the capacity as president, whether de facto or de jure, whatever the intentions of the Government with respect to his noble and learned Friend might have been on the subject, As to the discussions on the Irish Arms Bill, which his noble and learned Friend spoke of as having in the other House occasioned the 960 loss of the three bills to which he referred, he begged to express his decided opinion that those hon. Members who opposed the obnoxious clauses of that bill so firmly were deserving of great praise. And most assuredly, whatever the fate of the divisions, these hon. Gentlemen had been successful in their object to a very great extent. Nine clauses were wholly withdrawn from the bill by the Government, very material modifications of others consented to, and the bill was passed for only two years, instead of for a much longer period. As to delay, their Lordships were as chargeable with it to the full as the House of Commons could be, seeing how late they introduced bills, and how many nights were wasted with mere half-hour sittings.
said, that though the Members of the Judicial Committee undoubtedly took it in turn to deliver judgments, yet as to all interlocutory matters, and points of form and practice, the senior member of that committee was, de facto, its president.
§ Lord Monteagle
said, that when the noble and learned Lord laid on the opposition to the Irish Arms Bill the failure of the Factory Bill, he would say, without the slightest fear of contradiction, that the education clauses at least would have been withdrawn by the Government if the Irish Arms Bill had not been in existence. The Ecclesiastical Courts Bill had also been withdrawn by the Government. With respect to the attacks that had been made on the Government on the education clauses of the Factory Bill, he thought the conduct of the Government with respect to them a complete justification of the attacks of those who blamed the Government on that subject. He said, that the Factory Bill failed from the opposition of the great mass of the people of this country, and it would have failed if there had been no Irish Arms Bill.
wished to deny, that that there was any opposition to the bill on the part of the great mass of the people, though it was true that certain Dissenters were much opposed to it.