HL Deb 29 March 1849 vol 104 cc4-20

I now rise to call your Lordships' attention to the petition of which I have given notice, from the Mayor, Aldermen, Councillors, and Burgesses of Stockport, complaining of the recent appointment of borough magistrates for party purposes, and praying for inquiry. I feel there is no apology necessary either to your Lordships or to the noble and learned Lord on the woolsack for my asking your serious attention to the case, when I inform you that it is connected with a matter of no less importance than the purity of the administration of justice, and that by some parties or other advantage has been taken of the authority of the highest legal functionary in this country, for the purpose of effecting the appointment of magistrates, not for the ends of public justice, but for the private interests of political partisans. This petition is numerously and respectably signed by the inhabitants of Stockport. It states that recently an appointment of additional magistrates for the borough has been made, not, as the petitioners believe, for any public end, but for political purposes, and for private party purposes. These are assertions, I confess, which ought not to be lightly made. I cannot pretend to any personal acquaintance with the facts of the case; but, before bringing the subject to the notice of your Lordships, I felt it my duty closely to investigate the allegations of the petition, to examine documents in support of the case, and to hold communications with a deputation on the subject. I went over every allegation of the petition with two other Gentlemen of undoubted character and integrity, both Members of the House of Commons—both intimately acquainted with the state of the borough of Stockport, and the result was a confirmation of the allegations of the petitioners. My conviction, therefore, is, that there are grounds for those allegations, and that the object in appointing those magistrates was not for the furtherance of justice, but for the personal advantage of political partisans. The petition was put in the course of signature on Monday last, for the first time. I received it by post on Wednesday morning. During that time it had received the signature of the Mayor of Stockport, the signatures of six of the borough magistrates, seven of the aldermen, twenty-two of the town-councillors, three or four of the clergymen of the town, the chairman of the board of guardians, and of nearly 500 of the burgesses of Stockport, including among them—as I am assured by those who know the names—most of the respectable shopkeepers, tradesmen, and other inhabitants. And, my Lords, when parties so intimately acquainted with the facts take upon themselves, with that unanimity, to make the charges which I will read from the petition, I think it is due to your Lordships, and to the noble and learned Lord, that an opportunity should be afforded of explaining the facts as they stand—of dissipating the erroneous impression which prevails in Stockport, if that impression be, in truth, erroneous—and if it be not, of exposing those parties through whose instrumentality so great an abuse has been committed. My Lords, the petitioners do not presume to allege, nor do I wish, for a single moment, to be supposed to insinuate, that the noble and learned Lord himself was cognisant of the object sought to be attained. The high station and character of the noble and learned Lord render it impossible for me to believe that he would, to such an extent, prostitute and degrade the high authority with which he is invested, even if the object to be attained were not in itself of so paltry and contemptible a character as to afford no inducement for its accomplishment to a person much less conscientious than the noble and learned Lord. But the noble and learned Lord must recollect that persons in his high station are liable to be imposed upon and deceived by others, and that objects contemptible and insignificant in his mind are not contemptible and insignificant with persons in lower stations, and with less conscientious feelings; and I believe I shall be able to show your Lordships not only that such an object was aimed at, but I shall show you the object aimed at, the person by whom, and the person through whoso instrumentality it was effected. My Lords, I can state that the petitioners are desirous that your Lordships should, if you think fit, institute a strict investigation into the facts of the case. They court inquiry, and lay the facts before you; and all I can say is, that, if the inference—which, of course, can only be derived from the facts—if the inference be erroneous, it never occurred to me to meet with such a fortuitous combination of facts and of dates as those which I shall lay before your Lordships. My Lords, the borough of Stockport was one of the boroughs constituted in the year 1836, immediately upon the passing of the Municipal Corporation Act, and, in consequence of that incorporation, borough magistrates were appointed; and I do not state it as a matter to be wondered at that, as the leaning of the corporation on its first establishment was decidedly and exclusively Liberal—I mention the terms Liberal and Conservative for the sake of distinction—I say it is not to be wondered at that magistrates appointed by Liberal representatives should be exclusively Liberal, and exclusively connected with the Liberal party. Between the years 1836 and 1841, my Lords, sixteen gentlemen, all of the same political principles, were appointed magistrates of the borough of Stockport, and in 1841 there remained nine of these gentlemen resident and acting in the place. As your Lordships are aware, in that year a change took place in the Government, and it appeared, and I think justly appeared, to the right hon. Gentleman, Sir J. Graham, who then became Secretary of State for the Home Department, that it was not right or proper that the judicial bench should be occupied, either in Stockport or anywhere else, exclusively by members of one political party; and, consequently, on a representation from the town of Stockport, he appointed five gentlemen of Conservative principles to act as borough magistrates, making in all a total of fourteen. And in the year 1844—I beg your Lordships to boar this in mind—upon an application for a further increase of Conservative borough justices, the right hon. Gentleman, wisely, as I think, declined to make such an increase, because he stated, and in that opinion he was joined by the Conservative magistrates themselves, that his object was not to establish a party majority on the bench, but to remove the exclusive character of the bench. Therefore, my Lords, there remained nine Liberal and five Conservative magistrates from the year 1841 to 1848. In the month of June in that year the number of magistrates resident and acting was thirteen. There were six Liberals and five Conservatives; and there were the mayor and the ex-mayor, one a Conservative, the other a Liberal; and, consequently, the bench of magistrates was as nearly as possible evenly divided between the two parties, and I believe they had gone on together in perfect harmony. Now, my Lords, a feeling prevailed that a change was likely to take place in the constitution of the corporation. It is important for your Lordships to recollect that in June, 1848, there was a Liberal majority in the council, but that a suspicion existed that the complexion of the council would be altered at the next election. In that year the office of town clerk and clerk to the borough magistrates was held by Mr. Henry Coppock. That gentleman, who had been appointed in 1836, is the brother of a gentleman whose name must be familiar to many of your Lordships—Mr. James Coppock, and still more familiar to a large number of the Members of the other House of Parliament. Mr. Henry Coppock had been so appointed, and continued to hold the office of town clerk till 1848, and with the office of town clerk he also held the office of clerk to the magistrates, upon the understanding and agreement that he was to receive for performing the duties of the two offices a salary of 500l., paying the fees of the later office into the borough fund. In June, 1848, Mr. Henry Coppock fancied, from the tendency of the political opinions of the corporation, that his tenure of office might not be so secure as he had imagined it was before, and that if he should be dismissed from the office of town clerk, inasmuch as the two offices were combined by arrangement, he might very likely lose the situation of clerk to the magistrates also; and consequently in the month of June, 1848, Mr. Henry Coppock induced two—I believe three of the magistrates, but at that time it was supposed to be two—he induced three of the magistrates, without the knowledge of their brethren on the bench, without the knowledge of the town council, without the knowledge of the inhabitants, to forward a memorial to the Lord Chancellor, or rather to the Secretrary of State for the Home Department, by whom it would be referred to the Lord Chancellor, praying that an appointment might take place of six additional magistrates, which six magistrates these throe gentlemen, under the dictation of Mr. Henry Coppock, signified and specified by name. Upon learning this transaction a meeting of the magistrates took place, and they signed a memorial addressed to the noble and learned Lord, in which they informed his Lordship— That at the present time there are not less than twelve gentlemen—there were thirteen—duly qualified to act as magistrates for this borough, and in the commission of the peace, in the habit of attending the magistrates' meetings. We, the majority of such acting magistrates, can with confidence inform your Lordship that, in our opinion, the appointment of any additional magistrates for the borough is unnecessary and wholly uncalled for—that the magisterial business in the borough has hitherto been well and efficiently performed by less than the present number of magistrates, and that the duties of the magistrates recently have diminished rather than increased. And they go on to say— The memorial forwarded to Sir George Grey has been forwarded without in any way consulting the magistrates of the borough as a body, the town council, or the inhabitants at large, upon the necessity for the appointment of additional magistrates. My Lords, to that memorial I am not aware any immediate answer was made; but shortly afterwards a gentleman named Slack, who had for some time previously ceased to reside at Stockport, was applied to by the noble and learned Lord to know if he would not resign his office as a magistrate, to lay a ground for the appointment of additional magistrates. My Lords, that gentleman communicated to the town council the proposition which had been made to him—the majority of the town council at that time consisted of liberal members. A meeting of the town council was held on the 13th of August, which was attended by forty-one members of the corporation, and at that meeting resolutions were passed by thirty-three out of the forty-one, the other eight abstaining from recording their votes. These resolutions, then, may be considered the unanimous resolutions of the corporation. They state— That having heard with astonishment the communication made by the mayor, this council is of opinion there is not a deficiency in the magistracy for the borough of Stockport, there now being thirteen acting magistrates resident within the limits of the jurisdiction; that there is no necessity for any increase in the present number, especially considering the present peaceable state of the town, and that a memorial expressing that opinion be sent to the Lord Chancellor. In addition to this, a communication was made by one of the hon. Members for the county of Chester, stating to the noble and learned Lord these facts—that in the borough of Stockport the petty sessions were held every alternate day; that the business had never been in arrear for want of magistrates to attend the sessions; and that the universal feeling of the borough was, that there was no necessity whatever for making any alteration. And I think, my Lords, you may be pretty well satisfied there was no great necessity for any increase, when I toll you that while the magistrates amounted to thirteen in number, the whole police force amounted to only eleven individuals, who were superintended by these thirteen magistrates; and that the population of the borough was under 60,000 persons, in a perfectly peaceable state; and also that recent Parliamentary enactments had materially diminished the amount of duty imposed upon the magistrates. Those facts were made known to the noble and learned Lord on the woolsack, and again no answer was made to or received by the town council. No further step appeared to have been taken with regard to the appointment of new magistrates until the month of November. And here I wish to call your Lordships' attention to the dates, which are most remarkable. On the 9 th November the event which Mr. Henry Coppook had foreseen actually took place. The new town council—the majority being of the Conservative party—did not think Mr. Heury Coppock a fit person to exercise the duties of town clerk. Now, I am not saying whether in this respect the council judged rightly or wrongly, or whether they were actuated by political considerations or not. But be that as it may, the law leaves the appointment with the town council, and in the exercise of their discretion they removed Mr. Henry Coppock from the office of town clerk. It was then, I apprehend, the duty of Mr. Henry Coppock to have at once surrendered up all the documents which were in his possession, and hand them over, either to his successor or the town council itself. I know not whether that would strictly apply to the commission of the peace for the borough; but what did occur was this—that immediately upon his dismissal from office Mr. Henry Coppock transmitted the commission of the peace to his brother, Mr. James Coppock, in London, and by Mr. James Coppock the commission was deposited in the Crown Office here; and it is a curious fact that, no proceedings having taken place from the 13th of August down to the 9th of November, just at that critical period—namely, four days after the dismissal of Mr. Henry Coppock, a letter was received from the noble and learned Lord, dated the 13th November, informing the mayor of the borough of Stockport that he had given the necessary directions for inserting the five names which he had mentioned in the commission as additional magistrates for the borough. My Lords, this letter was not received until the 15th November. I need hardly say that the whole of these five persons, or rather four of the five, were gentlemen holding extremely liberal opinions, whose support of Mr. Henry Coppock in the office of town clerk, and clerk to the magistrates, might be most confidently relied upon; and the single exception of naming a Conservative would have no weight whatever in the opposite scale, if party feeling were to preponderate, because the one Conservative was already an ex officio magistrate, being the ex-mayor. The whole addition then was to the liberal party. My Lords, one of these gentlemen has since died. The circumstances of another gentleman, to which I will not further advert, rendered the appointment objectionable. Another of the gentlemen appointed was the judge of the county court, residing in the immediate neighbonrhood of Manchester, between four and five miles of Stockport, and I will show you that if he has taken his seat upon the bench since his appointment it was only upon one occasion, and that for a very short time, with the exception of one other memorable occasion, to which I shall have to direct your Lordships' attention. My Lords, the notice of these appointments having been received on the 15th November a meeting of the town council immediately took place, and they resolved that, fully coinciding in the opinion of their predecessors, and concurring in the resolutions which had been passed on the 13th August, they should send a deputation to remonstrate with the noble and learned Lord, and again to state that there was no necessity whatever for an addition to the bench of magistrates. These gentlemen arrived in town on the 15th, and on the 16th and 17th they waited upon the noble and learned Lord. They were then informed that the noble and learned Lord would receive cither a deputation or a memorial, and it was subsequently stated that he would prefer a memorial, if that memorial were presented within three days. The deputies remonstrated, and said that it was impossible to have a meeting of the town council before the following Monday—that being Friday—and they were informed in that case that Tuesday would be time enough. Now, my Lords, I will show you why it would be time enough. On the 20th, the meeting of the town council was held, but previous to that meeting a resolution had been come to which might have been anticipated—to diminish the salary of the new town clerk from 500l. to 400l., and to continue the same arrangement which had been enforced with regard to his predecessor, of the same person holding the two offices, and handing over the surplus fees to the borough fund. That arrangement required the co-operation and assent of the borough magistrates; and for the purpose of obtaining that consent, a meeting of the magistrates was appointed to take place on Saturday, the 25th. I beg your Lordships to remember these dates. The letter of the Lord Chancellor was received on the 15th. The deputation waited upon him on the 17th, and were informed that they might present a memorial not later than the Tuesday following. That memorial was presented on the Tuesday, and on the Wednesday the noble and learned Lord wrote down to say, that having given full consideration to the memorial of the town council of Stockport his Lordship was of opinion that an increase of the magistracy was necessary, and consequently that he had actually sealed the commission. My Lords, upon the receipt of this information a deputation was again sent up (and it arrived on the 21st), to wait upon the Lord Chancellor, and ascertain his final decision; and certainly that deputation augured very readily the success of their mission, when, in attendance upon the Lord Chancellor's secretary, they found one of the two magistrates who had signed the original memorial, one of the gentlemen who was designated as one of the new magistrates, and Mr. Henry Coppock, the late town clerk. The deputation then returned to the borough of Stockport on Thursday. I have ascertained—or at least the parties say they can prove the facts—that the new commission of the peace was handed from the Crown Office to Mr. James Coppock on the Wednesday or Thursday—that by Mr. James Coppock it was sent down to his brother Mr. Henry Coppock—that private information was given to all the five new magistrates who were to be qualified—that in the interval between the Thursday and the Saturday, when the meeting was to take place, they did so qualify—that all the four newly-appointed magistrates attended on the Saturday, and that by one of them a resolution was moved, and by the other of them a resolution was seconded, disagreeing with the arrangement of the council, and by the united weight of these four votes the scale was turned, and the arrangement was done away with—and the whole amount of the fees was still received by Mr. Henry Coppock, and the borough was thus subjected to additional expense in consequence of these fees not being paid over to the borough fund. Now, my Lords, I have only to add this—that the judge of the county court (Joseph St. John Yeates, Esq.) was the person who moved that resolution. He resides, as I have said already, four miles from the borough; and from that time to this he has never set foot upon the bench except once, and that only for a few minutes. The same, but to somewhat greater extent, is the case with another of the newly-appointed magistrates. A third is lame. The consequence is, that no addition has been made to the judicial strength of the bench, although the other object has been most effectually secured. My Lords, these are the facts which have been laid before me. I ask your Lordship, is there a man amongst you who does not connect these facts, these dates, these circumstances, with the object which the petitioners allege to have been entertained, and which, in point of fact, has been effected by the appointment of these magistrates. I do not charge the noble and learned Lord with being cognisant of all these transactions, still less with having lent the sanction of his high authority to these disgraceful proceedings. But this I do say, with all respect to the noble and learned Lord, that I think it is a strong exemplification of the danger of neglecting the advice and opinion of authorised and competent persons, and listening in the appointment of judicial officers to the private and underhand suggestions of parties who may, and very probably have, a personal and pecuniary interest in the matter. I regret that the noble and learned Lord has been imposed upon, as I think he has been; but the circumstances of the case having been stated to mo—the borough of Stockport being in a state of great excitement with respect to the proceedings which have taken place—and the proceedings themselves being calculated in no slight degree to diminish the authority of the bench, and to shake the confidence of the people in the administration of justice and of the appointment of those who are to administer it—I think I should have failed in my duty—being somewhat connected with the county in which the borough of Stockport is partly, at all events, situated—if I had not, after the full information which I have obtained, and having satisfied myself of the facts, laid them before your Lordships, for the purpose of affording an opportunity to the noble and learned Lord of giving an explanation to your Lordships.


who was very indistinctly heard, said, it was impossible for their Lordships to judge of the course which he had taken without going into more explanation than that which had been given by the noble Lord. He would state briefly what had been the course of proceeding on the appointment of borough magistrates since the Municipal Reform Act was passed. Their Lordships were aware that upon that Act first passing a certain number of magistrates were appointed; but they were not appointed as magistrates to the different boroughs till after there had been a careful explanation given, for the purpose of ascertaining what magistrates it was expedient to appoint to each. That was obviously a very necessary preliminary inquiry. A certain number of additional magistrates were required in regard to the borough of Stockport. The number at that time regularly attending was afterwards found to be not sufficient to transact the business of the borough of Stockport; and in the course of the year 1841 three other magistrates were appointed, in consequence of deputations from that town, and of representations which were made to his noble Friend, who was at that time Secretary of State for the Homo Department, that the number of magistrates was not adequate to carrying on the magisterial office. The very same gentleman who had presented this petition through the noble Lord, then represented to his noble Friend, who was then Secretary, that there was no necessity for increasing the number of magistrates—that there was a sufficient number; and the statements of the deputation were then inquired into, and the Secretary of State was of opinion that the number of magistrates should be increased by three. Those gentlemen viewed with dismay that the number of magistrates should be increased, especially for political purposes. It so happened subsequently, fortunately for the views of those gentlemen, that there was a change of Administration, and those six gentlemen who had been so averse to any increase, and so confident that there was a sufficient number of magistrates for the business to be done—those persons were satisfied when there was a change of opinion, and they had forgotten the laudable purposes for which they were appointed—in short, those who did not adopt the same politics as themselves; but the addition of those who entertained opinions like their own gave a different complexion to the case. The number, then, according to the petition, was twenty-one. There were eighteen acting magistrates; and after the appointment of five others, in the end of the year 1841 (not by his noble Friend), there were eighteen acting magistrates; and nothing was heard more of the borough of Stockport. Now, he would state the course which he had thought fit to adopt, and which he believed had produced beneficial results. Their Lordships must be aware that if upon every application of parties it were the business of the Lord Chancellor to enter into a discussion, investigation, and decision of the merits of the contests between the liberal and conservative interests in boroughs and elsewhere, he would have more to do than it would be possible to achieve. One way in which these questions continually arose, was from the call which was made for additions to the number of the magistracy, by reason of vacancies occurring from deaths, or the removal of the magistrates to other parts of the kingdom. But, in the hope of investigating these cases, he adopted this rule when parties came to him with this object in view. He first inquired what was the number of magistrates in 1841, not including the additions which were made at the latter end of that year—because he did not approve of that addition—but to pass over them and inquire what was the number anterior to 1841. He inquired into that, because he knew that the history of all boroughs had been accurately investigated by his noble Friend as to how many the Reform Bill gave to each borough; but their Lordships were aware that in some boroughs there were peculiar considerations—as in some of the manufacturing districts. In this case it was the duty of the Great Seal to inquire into the circumstances in order to ascertain whether they were such as to justify such proceedings. In the case of the borough of Stockport, it appeared that there had been an increase—and a very rapid increase—in the population. In 1830, the population was 40,000; and in 1841, it was 50,000; and at the present time it was 60,000: therefore, there was an increase of 10,000 in the population added to the number between 1841 and the period at which he was requested to appoint additional magistrates. In the meantime, by deaths, or by parties leaving the district, the number of the magistrates, which was eighteen in 1841, had been reduced to eleven. Applications were made to him to add to the number of magistrates, the number being reduced to eleven. An application was made, signed by three persons, praying for an increase in the magistracy. The first step he took was to look into the matter, and to make an inquiry into the fact alleged, and also to communicate with the town council, such application being made for the purpose of obtaining information. The number who had originally applied was only three; but no sooner was it known that he entertained the intention of adding to the magistracy—this he mentioned to show the feeling of the town—than he received a memorial from men who were highly respectable, and who were fitted by their character, their education, and their position, to fill high official appointments. The memorial adverted to the petition of the magistracy, which was alleged to he owing to their exclusive political feeling. Now he would beg to state to their Lordships by whom this memorial was signed: it was signed by six magistrates, two aldermen, by the coroner of the county, by twenty persons being ministers of different denominations and others, and by 2,000 inhabitants, representing at least one-fifth of the property of the place, and the signatures being obtained between ten and four o'clock. He stated these facts to their Lordships to show, that if there was a strong feeling on one side, so there was on the other. With respect to the magistrates in 1841, it so happened that all the vacancies which subsequently occurred were on the side of the Liberals, and thus those who had been in the minority became the majority. Now it was not rare to find a minority suddenly converted into a majority using their victory with little gentleness. Some time before the offices of town clerk and clerk to the magistrates were held by one gentleman, Mr. Henry Coppock; this gentleman, the majority of the town council, on the change of the proportion of parties, took the opportunity of dismissing from his office: no fault was alleged against him, but his political opinions were not in unison with those of the magistrates. It had been made matter of complaint in other cases that gentlemen had been dismissed from public offices by the tyranny of a majority. Although a party had no permanent interest in his office, yet, if he were guilty of no fault, it was obviously a hardship that he should, under such circumstances, be subjected to the loss of position and the loss of income which dismissal involved. It would be in the recollection of their Lordships that the framers of the Corporation Act, foreseeing that considerable changes might take place in the composition of corporations, and that great hardship might arise from the dismissal of those who held the office of town-clerk, made povision for giving compensation in all such cases. Parliament, then, had recognised it as a hardship that a public officer should be dismissed under such circumstances, though he had no permanent interest in his office. The town council of Stockport had dismissed Mr. Coppock, and the only reason assigned for their doing so was that he was not of their political opinions. In November application was made for the appointment of additional magistrates, and he (the Lord Chancellor) had received communications from various individuals which he should have been glad to read to their Lordships had he felt himself at liberty to make that use of the information so transmitted without the consent of the parties. He found that in 1841 the number of magistrates was thirteen; that the population had increased in the course of eight years from that period by 10,000 persons; and, assuming thirteen to be the proper number for 1841, he held that he was acting within the limits of the rule so laid down when he added four to the number of the magistrates, not including the mayor. The noble Lord had alluded to one of those additional magistrates, namely the Judge of the County Court. As that gentleman lived in the vicinity of Stockport, and as it was desirable to appoint the judges of the county courts magistrates when they were willing to accept the office, he (the Lord Chancellor) had inserted that gentleman's name in the commission of the peace. So far from its being a mere matter of choice to select judges of county courts as magistrates, the Act by which their offices had been created expressly authorised the appointment of the judges of county courts to the commission of the peace without any qualification. And with reason; for those functionaries were necessarily conversant with legal matters, and peculiarly qualified by the nature of their experience and acquirements to act as magistrates. When he found a competent person, his rule was to appoint him; and the Act, so far from its being a matter of choice, directed and authorised the Great Seal to appoint judges of the county courts without any qualification. Now, their Lordships would be surprised to learn, after the statements which had been made by the noble Lord, that in this petition no objection whatever was urged to those persons who had been appointed. He knew the noble Lord had stated matters not as upon his own knowlege, but which had been stated to him privately; but when the noble Lord made such statements and in such a manner, he did not do what was fairly required at his hands. As to his having had any personal communication with parties from Stockport, he could only say that on no occasion had he received any person from Stockport. He had formed his judgment from what he saw in the papers laid before him, and he had appointed the four persons who were represented to him as persons qualified to fill the office of magistrates. The fact was that those who had held the majority did not like being placed in a minority on some occasions. In 1841, when a number of magistrates were appointed, they were Liberals. He did not say anything about the principle of these appointments; but if the noble Lord's Colleagues did right in 1841, surely, in following that example in 1848, he could not be wrong. It was alleged that the recent appointments had been made on account of the parties being-Liberals. Now, in making these appointments he acted on the best information he could collect. Such appointments should be made on public and not on private grounds; and whether they were good or bad, it was on public principles that the appointments had been made. A petition on the subject had been sent from, as alleged, the corporation of Stockport against the appointments. Certainly, the petition, until closely looked into, had the appearance of having come from the Mayor, Aldermen, and Common Council of Stockport; but, when examined more closely, it would be found rather to bear the character of a petition from individuals only. He doubted, therefore, the propriety of calling this petition a petition from the Mayor and Corporation of Stockport. The petition was signed by the mayor and six gentlemen connected with the corporation—the mayor being one of the excluded magistrates. The petitioners prayed for the removal of the parties who had been recently appointed; and they hoped their Lordships would not defeat the alterations in their system of corporate policy which they had in view, by continuing these new appointments. They said that the appointments had been made without their concurrence; and they expressed their astonishment that he (the Lord Chancellor) should have interfered in the appointment of magistrates, without first consulting the existing authorities and the magistrates of the borough. He certainly had not done as the petitioners wished. He had simply infused fresh blood into the composition of the magistracy—a proceeding that he hoped would have tended to moderate the political views which were entertained by that body. The petitioners said the appointments were made without their concurrence, and they, therefore, prayed that House to adopt some plan by which such a proceeding should not occur again. Now, if their Lordships considered what had been done, they would be able to judge of the propriety of what the petitioners asked. A Minister of the Crown, exercising the prerogative of the Crown, after taking into consideration the reasons laid before him for making an increase to the Stockport magistracy, had added four magistrates to the number. The main reason for this increase was, that since 1841 the number of inhabitants had increased 10,000, and the Crown thought that the addition of four was a fair addition to make. The appointment of the four magistrates was conferred on unexceptionable persons. He had no personal knowledge of any of the individuals who had been recommended, or who had applied, and he conferred the appointments to the best of his judgment. The petitioners did not state that they had any personal objection to any of the individuals appointed; they only complained of the number and the mode in which the appointments had been made. Now, he looked to the present number of magistrates, and he found they did not reach the number which existed in 1841. He admitted there was much political feeling in the borough of Stockport—that was the case with all boroughs. Political animosity in this metropolis was nothing as compared with the political animosity of boroughs—and how the peace was to be preserved, unless by a change in, or an addition to the body of magistrates, when party conflicts became too violent, he could not understand. The best way, in his opinion, was to keep the balance between political parties as even as possible. The noble Lord said that all the new appointments ought not to have been on one side. He repeated he had not acted on a political rule at all in these appointments. He had no party feeling in the case, and he had given his best attention to the suggestions on the subject which he had received. He did not doubt, however, that parties of a liberal tone of politics would be more readily recommended, as likely to have the best chance, because their political views might be considered as coinciding with those of Government. But he denied having made these appointments for party purposes. He had adopted the rule of 1841, and had adapted it to the change of population, and no personal objections had been made to the appointments. He considered it was right to make these appointments without the concurrence of those six gentlemen, and in what he had done he had not exceeded his duty.


remarked, that the noble and learned Lord had not touched on the subject of the secret influence which had been brought to bear on those appointments. The number of magistrates which in 1841 was 13 was subsequently increased to 18. Of the 13 who in 1841 were in the commission of the peace, only nine were resident and active. In 1848, there were 16, of whom 11 were resident and active. The entire number in 1841 was 13, and in 1848, 16.


had only referred to the allegation in the petition presented by the noble Lord, that in 1841 16 gentlemen had been appointed, of whom 9 were then resident. He could not say how many magistrates were continually resident within the precincts and borough of Stockport.


considered that the statement of the noble Lord furnished a strong case for inquiry. Very serious considerations arose from such facts as had been laid before their Lordships, and it was, therefore, proper that a rigid inquiry should take place. The noble and learned Lord, in his reply, had confined himself to the mere facts of the appointments, and had totally lost sight of the allegation of secret influence by which those appointments had been made. The noble and learned Lord's argument was this—that because five Conservative magistrates were appointed in 1841, five Radical magistrates ought to be appointed in 1848. Now, whether it was right or wrong to appoint these Conservative magistrates in 1841, he protested against the Lord Chancellor of England using the high trust reposed in him to make appointments in conformity with the politics of any party.

Subject at an end.