said, that, in pursuance of the notice he had given last week, he should, with their Lordships' permission, lay on the Table a Bill for the Abolition of Deodands, and he did not anticipate there would be any opposition offered to its passing through, much less in its introduction to that House—the wonder to him was that a law so extremely absurd and inconvenient should have remained in force down to the middle of the nineteenth century; especially as that did not arise from the law having become obsolete or slipped their recollection from never having been put in force; for the law of deodands was called into action almost weekly, as the newspapers constantly informed them. He would, however, venture to say that the law was both extremely absurd and inconvenient, and, under the correction of his noble and learned Friend on the Woolsack, he would shortly state to their Lordships what that law really was which men now enforced, and which, if resorted to, ought not to be perverted by Coroners' juries. By the old Common 1028 Law of England, which was still in force, all personal chattels that had immediately caused or moved to the death of a reasonable being were forfeited to the Crown. That was not at all by way of punishing an offence committed by the owner of the chattels, because, as his noble and learned Friend well knew, where there had been malice or culpable negligence, so that it became a case of murder or manslaughter, the law of deodand did not apply. It had been decided that if another man took his (Lord Campbell's) sword, without his leave, and killed another with his sword, his sword became forfeited to Her Majesty. The severity of the law, if it were strictly enforced, was very great, because everything that in the remotest degree contributed to the death was included in the forfeiture. Not only an ox that gored a man was forfeited, but if a person fell from a horse the horse was forfeited: and if a man fell from a horse into the water and was carried down a mill-race and killed by the wheel of the mill, the horse and the mill-wheel were both forfeited. To be sure, if a person fell from that which was not in motion that motionless thing was not forfeited; it was only what he touched immediately before the moment of death, which was the subject of a deodand; for instance, if a man were climbing up a waggon, which was stationary, and fell from a wheel, the wheel by which he was climbing up was alone forfeited; but, then, if the waggon was in motion, the waggon, and the horses, and the load in the waggon, were all forfeited, as tending ad mortem. This was in accordance with the maxim, "omnia quæ movent ad mortem sunt Deo danda." Again, if a person fell from the top of a stage-coach, even intoxicated or asleep, and the wheel of the coach passed over him and killed him, the horses and the coach, and everything in the coach, including the luggage of the passengers, would all be forfeited. Certain absurd distinctions were made: for instance, if a man fell from a ship in salt water, there was no deodand on the ship; but if he fell from the ship in fresh water, then the ship and the furniture of the ship, and the cargo of the ship, were all deodands. Neither did it signify, whether the chattel fell on the man, or the man on the chattel. But, it was said, that if the thing was fixed to a freehold, then it should not be a deodand; and, therefore, if the door of a house fell upon and killed a man, it 1029 being part of a freehold, was not forfeited. Again, if a bell dropped from a steeple, and produced the death of a person, it was not a deodand, because it had been consecrated. The law of deodands, it was supposed, had been founded partly upon the Mosaic, and partly upon the Athenian law, by which any instrument causing death was considered accursed, and was made a deodand; but the bells were blessed, not accursed. By the old English law, the chattel causing death was to be sold, and the money, however great the amount, was to be applied in the purchase of masses for the soul of the deceased; as he had gone to his account unprepared, the law humanely provided that masses should be celebrated for the purpose of accelerating his removal out of purgatory. Now, it did seem strange that in this Protestant country a law should remain in force, which had been abolished in all Roman Catholic countries, and that England, which was so proud of being distinguished for its Protestantism, should be the only country in which it was allowed to remain. He trusted, therefore, that their Lordships would agree with him that it ought not any longer to be a reproach to their jurisprudence. A very different application than was intended by the Legislature was attempted to be made of it by Coroners' juries, who used it as a punishment for negligence, carelessness, and a criminal intent. If no fault appeared on the part of the owners of the chattel, the jurors found no deodand; but if there had been gross negligence, or what they considered had been a "culpable neglect," then they did find a deodand; so that they entirely perverted the law—they found no deodand where the law gave a deodand, and where the law gave no deodand there they found one. Now, he was sure their Lordships would agree with him, that Coroners' juries, in the inflamed state in which they must necessarily be, sitting on an inquest upon a person who had come to an untimely end, must be a very unfit tribunal to punish an offender, even if they could do so by law. It was an entirely ex parte proceeding—the party accused was not on his trial before the jury. The power must necessarily be abused if it existed; but the power did not exist, and the Court of Queen's Bench for the last ten years had almost invariably quashed inquisitions where such a course had been pur- 1030 sued: because, when an inquisition was held, and the facts were stated, and there appeared to have been gross negligence, that would amount to manslaughter, and the verdict ought to have been against the party guilty of the negligence, as in the case of "The Queen v. Bolwarth;" and the Court quashed the inquisition. But still the Coroners' juries went on from time to time, with a laudable and natural feeling, to try, by a little perversion of the law, to do what they considered was subservient to the ends of justice. Great vexation arose from that, and much injury was done to the administration of justice. He had had the honour of communicating with several legal friends on the subject, and they all entertained the opinion that the law should not be allowed to remain as it then was, as it led to most inconvenient consequences. He had likewise conversed with an intelligent Coroner, he meant Mr. Wakley, the Coroner for Middlesex, who was a most active servant of the public, and he had informed him that, in his opinion, that law could do no good—it only held out a temptation to juries by which they were misled, and from which the greatest inconvenience resulted. There was only a single benefit that this law might be supposed to confer upon the public, and that was, that it tended to induce caution aud care on the part of stage coach proprietors and the directors of railroads, because it was held out in terrorem, and might have a salutary effect in making them more careful than they otherwise would be. But there was another defect in the law which he had now to point out, and which being removed would be productive of unspeakable benefit. By the law of France, and most of the Continental countries, and likewise by the law of Scotland, if, by the default of any person, death ensued, that person was liable to make compensation to those who had suffered from the death of the individual who had so perished. In Scotland that was called an "assythment;" but he had been told that that law did not operate well, for the life of a man was considered so valuable that no estimate could be formed of its value; so that if death ensued, there was no remedy. If a man's son were thrown by the negligence of a coach proprietor from a coach, and he broke his limb, the father had an action against the stage coach proprietor; but if the poor boy was killed upon the 1031 spot, then the father had no action against the coach proprietor.
The Lord Chancellor
thought his noble and learned Friend had reported a case on that point. It was the case of the death of a wife, and occurred in the time of Lord Ellenborough.
said, the same observation applied to the case which his noble and learned Friend had referred to. Where a man's wife was thrown from the top of a stage-coach and killed upon the spot, no action could be maintained for even the expenses of her funeral. His noble and learned Friend would hardly suppose that that was a state of the law which ought to be allowed to remain; and he would agree with him that it was a great reproach to their jurisprudence that it had not been sooner altered. He (Lord Campbell) had intended to have made that part of his Bill; but his noble Friend, Lord Lyttleton, had prepared a Bill on the subject, which had been laid on their Lordships' Table, and which he hoped would effectually answer every purpose that he (Lord Campbell) had in view. He did not wish to take the matter out of the hands of his noble Friend; but, on the contrary, should be happy to afford him every assistance in his power in improving his Bill. The two Bills might go on together, because, objectionable as the system of deodands was, he would no abolish it, having regard to the public safety, unless the right of action was given, in order to make railroad directors and stage coach proprietors cautious of the lives and limbs of Her Majesty's subjects. His Bill was confined merely to the subject of deodands; but the two Bills might either go on pari passu, or be joined together. Upon the suggestion of Mr. Baron Parke, a Judge to whom the public were indebted, not only for his administration of justice, but for the rules of law that he had suggested and introduced, he had inserted a clause in his Bill for doing away with a useless absurdity in indictments for murder, in which it was at the present time necessary to give a minute description of the instrument by which the murder was committed, and to state the value of it, or to allege that it was of no value. He had therefore introduced a clause which should make it no longer necessary to introduce this into the indictment. Such was the nature of the Bill that he had the honour 1032 to offer to their Lordships, and he should propose that it be read for the first time. He hoped it would go on concurrently with Lord Lyttleton's Bill—but if it should be thought better to amalgamate them, he should be most happy that it should go down to posterity as Lord Lyttleton's Bill.
The Lord Chancellor
did not rise for the purpose of giving any opposition to this Bill, which would be read for the first time, as a matter of course. He agreed with his noble and learned Friend, that the system which he had dilated on was pregnant with absurdity. His noble and learned Friend had mentioned many absurdities from, he believed, the Digests on the subject, one of which he (the Lord Chancellor) had seen that morning, which contained a case which went, in absurdity, even beyond those stated by his noble and learned Friend. If a man were riding in a cart drawn by three or four horses, and the cart were overturned, and the man crushed by a wheel, the cart and horses would become a deodand. That his noble and learned Friend had stated—but if a waggon loaded with hay were passing at the same time, and the man were thrown in such a way that a wheel of the waggon went over and killed him, not only the cart and horses were forfeited, but the waggon and the load of hay, and the horses followed the same fate as the cart. The absurdity of the law was not the only ground on which he thought it would be wise to adopt the course suggested by his noble and learned Friend:—it would be wise also to abolish it, in order to do away with the application of it to collateral objects. But he should not say more at present than to suggest one or two points for the consideration of his noble and learned Friend, in the interval between the first and second readings of his Bill. The first point was, that deodands formed part of the ordinary revenue of the Crown. It would be necessary, therefore, according to usage, that the consent of the Crown should be obtained before proceeding with any measure proposing to deal with them; and he thought it would be the more respectful course to ask that consent as soon as possible, than to postpone the obtaining it to the last stage of the Bill. There was another point of more difficulty than that to which he had already adverted, and it was this—that that property of the Crown had been 1033 granted out in a great variety of instances, to lords of franchises and public corporations. They possess a property, therefore, in these deodands; and he thought their Lordships would hardly interfere with these rights, without providing in some way or other compensation, or an equivalent for the loss of it. It might be said that this was a trifling matter, and that de minimis non curat lex; but if this mode of procedure be once sanctioned, it may next be applied in cases more extensive and important. There was still another point which had been mentioned to him by a noble Friend—viz., whether the public and the House of Commons would not consider them by this Bill as interfering with their privileges, inasmuch as it proposed to deal with the revenues of the Crown. He did not profess to have any great learning on the subject, but he felt rather disposed to controvert the right of the other House to interfere with their decisions; but he knew there was an apparent right on this point, which was exercised by the House of Commons in a somewhat arbitrary manner. He should not offer the lest objection to the Bill in its progress through the House, but merely wished to call the attention of his noble and learned Friend to the points he had stated, in order that he might apply his judgment to the consideration of them.
was so fully aware of the necessity of the consent of the Crown being obtained, that he had purposely given notice of his intention to introduce the Bill, so that the attention of Ministers might be called to it as early as possible; and he was sure that the Government would now obtain Her Majesty's consent, and the Bill could be proceeded with. He was much obliged to his noble and learned Friend for the suggestions he had thrown out; but he would take the earliest opportunity of saying that there was not the slightest pretence for giving compensation to the parties to whom the grant of a deodand had been made, as the grant continued only so long as the deodand existed. While the law gave a deodand, it went to the Crown, or to the grantee of the Crown, but no longer. If such were not the law, in many cases they could not do away with a particular felony as a capital offence, because there was a forfeiture involved in it. In the case of a felony, the felon's goods were forfeited; and in many cases these rights had been 1034 granted away, and they could not alter the law with regard to felony, and say there should no longer be a deodand, without giving compensation to the public executioner, who was entitled to the felon's clothes. With regard to the third point suggested by his noble and learned Friend relative to the House of Commons, he would only say, that a noble Friend (Lord Canterbury) who had filled the Chair of the House of Commons with so much distinction, and was always so zealous in sustaining the rights of that House, had not objected to Bills originating in their Lordships' House, which did not affect the revenue of the country. The abolition of deodands could in no way interfere with the rights of the House of Commons.
§ Lord Monteagle
said, it would be well to consider that the casual acquisitions of the Crown formed part of the Public Revenue as much as any other portion of the revenue vested in Her Majesty. He should imagine, therefore, that the practice in respect of them was analogous to the course taken by the House of Lords in the repeal of any other tax.
suggested to his noble Friend (Lord Monteagle), that the landed estates of the Crown came under the same view; but it could not be contended that the House of Lords had not the same control over those estates as the House of Commons.
The Lord Chancellor
said, the course they were about to adopt, could not be attended with inconvenience, because if the House of Commons would not give effect to the Bill of his noble and learned Friend, they would send up a corresponding Bill for the consideration of their Lordships.
§ Bill read 1a.