Shortly after the formation of the present Government, and, I believe, before my noble Friend took his seat in this House as the head of the Government, I took the liberty of bringing under the notice of your Lordships many important questions which were to be dealt with, as well as the state of private business and the state of the judicial business, a vast arrear of which was pending. I thought it my duty on that occasion to go through in detail the various measures then before Parliament, calling on your Lordships strongly to oppose that cry which 1398 had been raised for an immediate dissolution, as that, I felt, would deeply affect the public interests, and be most injurious to many private individuals. I spoke of those measures requiring legislation at the time so much in detail, that it is quite unnecessary for me to refer to that statement again: it is sufficient for me to say that every one of those measures is now the law of the land. I may further state that, in addition to the measures to which I then called your Lordships' attention, there are others, of very considerable importance, which have also become part of the law of the land. The only measure to which I shall at all particularly refer, is the constitution granted to New Zealand. I refer to that merely for the purpose of stating that not only has great benefit been conferred on that particular colony, but in the Bill granting that constitution principles have been laid down applicable to other colonics, which will, no doubt, have the effect of removing the dissatisfaction and discontent that have so long prevailed among them. I referred to the private business then before Parliament, It happened to have accumulated to a very large extent. The greater portion of that business, involving property to an enormous amount, by the unwearied assiduity of my noble Friend who presides over the Committees of this House (Lord Redes-dale), has been completely disposed of. With respect to the judicial business of the House, I stated on the former occasion to which I have referred, that a delay of justice was in many cases a denial. That business is almost entirely completed. There is scarcely an arrear of appeal now on your Lordships' table. Referring to what I formerly said, I have thought it my duty to come down to the House for the purpose of making this statement, and congratulating the country on the course pursued by my noble Friend at the head of the Government. I thank my noble Friend for the firmness with which he resisted those repeated attacks which were made—those clamours which were raised, on account of his resisting the cry for an immediate dissolution. It was of the greatest importance to the country that the proceedings to which I refer should have taken place. I may venture to say, further, that, during the four months that have elapsed since my noble Friend came into office, Bills of greater importance have passed your Lordships' House, than have passed during any Session since the com- 1399 mencement of the present Parliament; and I am sure my humble thanks, and the thanks of the country, are due to my noble Friend for having resisted the clamours that were raised.
§ LORD BEAUMONT
said, the noble and learned Lord had congratulated the House on so many Bills having passed: but he perceived that there was one Bill in which the noble and learned Lord might be supposed to have a deep interest, which was not likely to become a part of the law of the land—he meant the Parliamentary Proceedings Facilitation Bill, which he believed was introduced by the noble and learned Lord himself. That Bill was intended to prevent the great crush of business which usually accumulated in their Lordships' House towards the close of a Session; and the present Session had not been an exception in respect to that accumulation; for at the last sitting but one of that House no less than thirty-six public Bills proceeded through one stage or another. Now, that, he (Lord Beaumont) thought, was scarcely a creditable way of considering the public business. Many of those Bills were of the utmost importance. Some of them contained an immense quantity of details. Many of them involved important interests, both public and private. There was the Metropolitan Burials Bill, which involved interests of that description. Many of these Bills, if they had been brought to that House at an earlier period of the Session, would have been referred to Select Committees; and he had no doubt that, if they had undergone that process, they would have been materially improved. The state of the Session had unfortunately prevented the House from adopting that course; and he had, therefore, almost a right to conclude, or, at all events, he had cause to be afraid, that many of those Bills would become the law of the land in a very imperfect state. Many of the Bills, on the passing of which the noble and learned Lord had congratulated the House, had only recently passed through the House; there was no doubt then, that in consequence of the dissolution of Parliament being so imminent, those Bills could not have received that mature consideration which ampler time would have permitted their Lordships to bestow upon them. He did not, however, deny that great and useful measures had been adopted by Parliament during the present Session, and that many important Bills had been well considered and much improved in their 1400 course through either House. But he did not think that the circumstance of both Houses having done their duty was any matter of congratulation, or any matter of just compliment to the Government. If any compliment was due, it was due to both Houses for having transacted their business. But could it be supposed that the Houses would not have equally done their duty if there had been a dissolution at an earlier day, and a new Parliament had been called at an earlier period? He had no doubt that another Parliament would have done its duty equally as well as the Parliament then sitting. The whole of the compliment, therefore, if any was due, was due merely to an expiring Parliament, for the manner in which it had conducted its business. In the House of Lords and in the House of Commons, the Government had, over and over again, declared that they were in a minority. The Houses had, therefore, acted with leniency, and shown great forbearance towards Ministers in permitting them to continue with a Parliament in which they had not a majority, and allowing them to proceed with the Bills to which the noble and learned Lord had alluded. There was no credit whatever due to the Government for what they had done. The credit belonged to the Parliamentary majority, for it was owing to the conduct of that majority that the Bills had become the law of the land. The compliment was due to the Opposition and not to the minority. Therefore, whilst joining with the noble and learned Lord in saying, that great and important measures had been passed during the present Session, yet he must claim for the majority, and not for the minority, for the Opposition, and not for the Government, the credit of that result.
§ LORD LYNDHURST
explained, with respect to the Bill to which the noble Lord had referred as involving a matter personal to himself, that to the question why he had not taken steps for passing that Bill in the present Session, the answer was most simple—the Bill did not apply to a new Parliament; it would not have applied to the next Session; therefore, he thought it better to postpone it to the next Parliament. So much for that. With regard to the other topics adverted to, if the noble Lord would only calculate a little, he would find that if Parliament had been dissolved, it would have been impossible for it to have met for the despatch of business at such a time as would have allowed it to 1401 pass one half of the Bills which would now he the law of the land. The noble Lord, as it seemed, had understood him to say that the present Government were entitled to the merit of the measures passed. He thought he could make out a case satisfactory even to the noble Lord. His compliment to the noble Earl at the head of the Government was for the noble Earl's firmness in resisting the attacks made on him to induce a dissolution of Parliament, and for proceeding with measures which otherwise would have been hung up till the next Session. He did not deny the merit due to the other House of Parliament, and also the merit of thi3 House, in having passed those Bills. He never meant to deny that he thanked his noble Friend for himself, and in the name of the country, for the firmness of the course he pursued. His noble Friend was, he thought, well entitled to the thanks of the country.
said, that his noble and learned Friend on the woolsack was entitled to great praise for the manner in which he had urged forward the great measures of law amendment to which the noble and learned Lord opposite had referred. He had never hesitated to express his opinion as to the great merit of the Government in reference to the measures of law reform—he had so expressed himself only two days ago, when the most important of those measures was before their Lordships. At the same time, his noble and learned Friend must admit that the merit of originating these measures belonged to the Commission appointed by the late Government, and, he would add, to the late Government itself; for though his noble and learned Friend and himself had a discussion with the late Lord Chancellor on the subject at the beginning of the Session, and had expressed their surprise at, and discontent with, the delay which had occurred in carrying into effect the recommendations of the Commissioners according to the intentions of the Government as announced in the Speech from the Throne, he would take upon him to say, that there had been a complete understanding come to in consequence of that discussion commenced by his noble Friend (Lord Lyndhurst), and himself, and that the apparent discrepancy of which they had complained, between the Members of the Government in the two Houses, having been speedily removed, the resolution was fully come to, that the most effectual steps should be taken for preparing a Bill 1402 or Bills to carry into effect the recommendations of the Commission. That little progress had been made in the formal preparation of those Bills by the late Government, he admitted; but much more progress had been made than was supposed. At all events, the measures which were suggested by the Commissioners, and adopted by the late Government, had been taken up and adopted by his noble and learned Friend opposite (Lord Lyndhurst), and by his noble and learned Friend on the woolsack, fortunately, with his accustomed perseverance and vigour, and he had, as might be expected, proved an effectual workman, and drawn Bills in accordance with the recommendations of the Commissioners; the result was, that most of those recommendations would now become the law of the land. For these great legal reforms the country had to thank the late as well as the present Government; but the credit of the measures themselves was mainly due to the labours of that most able and enlightened body of men who composed the Commission. To them were owing measures which, by, he trusted, a very slight anticipation, his noble and learned Friend had said were now the law of the land. But here he must pause to remark, that in every branch of human improvement, whether in science, in arts, or in other departments, the progress appeared ever to be gradual; for the sciences, his noble and learned Friend (Lord Lyndhurst), an old mathematician, well knew there was hardly any exception to the rule other than the discovery of logarithms; and certainly the progress of political science fell peculiarly within the rule. So of this great measure, their Lordships would find that above ten years ago it was not merely shadowed out, but in great part described, in the answer of certain of the Masters in Chancery to Lord Langdale's inquiry touching the proper method of reforming the Court of Chancery. The letter of his (Lord Brougham's) hon. relative contained the suggestion, of the very plan now adopted, in which Lord Lang-dale entirely concurred. Again, the subject was broached in their Lordships' Committee last Session on the Masters' Bill, of which he (Lord Brougham) had the honour to be chairman. The subject would be found to be fully discussed in the evidence there taken six months before the Commissioners framed their Report. But far be it from him to doubt for a moment that to the Commissioners and the late and 1403 present Government the country owes this great improvement, for which it never can be too thankful. He only wished to note how long a period had elapsed between the first proposal and the final adoption of the plan.
§ LORD LYNDHURST
was understood to explain the sense in which he spoke of measures brought in by the Government and passed being the law of the land. With respect to those great questions of Chancery reform, he begged to call the attention of their Lordships to the fact that, when it was stated in the other House of Parliament that one of the necessary measures to be passed before a dissolution was the Bill which had been mentioned, a shout of derision was raised, and a great deal of humorous observation was made about "putting Parliament into Chancery," as if it were perfectly impracticable, in the opinion of Members of that House, that the measure could be passed this Session. Referring to the opinion, as far as he could collect it, of the noble and learned Lord lately on the woolsack, with respect to the recommendations of the Commission, he owned he did really suspect at one time that the measure was not likely to pass during the present Session. But his noble and learned Friend now on the woolsack, notwithstanding that he was labouring under severe indisposition, setting his shoulders to the wheel, entered on the question with so much activity and intelligence, and with such mastery of his subject, being also a very skilful draughtsman, that, owing to that activity, diligence, and intelligence, the Government succeeded in passing those most important Bills.
observed, that his noble and learned Friend lately on the woolsack (Lord Truro) had entertained objections to some of the recommendations of the Commissioners; but when he had arrived at an understanding with the rest of the Government as to the amendments to be adopted, he instantly took steps to carry through the measure, to the best of his ability, and with the utmost of his industry, which was unsurpassed. That he would have carried those reforms into effect, and that had he remained in office, they would have been the law of the land before now, there could be no manner of doubt. When his noble and learned Friend (Lord Lyndhurst) expressed doubts how far the late Chancellor originally agreed with the Report of the Commissioners, it might be observed that others as well as he had been con- 1404 verted by fuller discussion to embrace the plan now so universally approved. If he mistook not, his noble and learned Friend on the woolsack had shown this exemplary candour among others, of whom he should mention his right hon. and learned Friend Vice-Chancellor Turner, who, when examined in their Lordships' Committee last Session was adverse to the plan, but became, upon fuller inquiry as a Commissioner, one of its most zealous and he (Lord Brougham) need not add, most able supporters.
§ LORD LYNDHURST
expressed his conviction that the late Lord Chancellor, when he made up his mind as to the propriety of any measure, would, by the application of his intelligence, and in consistency with his honourable character, use every exertion to carry such measure into effect. His (Lord Lyndhurst's) only doubt arose from what passed in that House. He was by no means satisfied that the noble and learned Lord had made up his mind. But he was sure that, when the noble and learned Lord had done so, no sacrifice of time, no sacrifice of patience, would have prevented the noble and learned Lord from doing his utmost in carrying that measure into effect. There was not a person of more integrity, honour, and steady perseverance, than that noble and learned Lord.
§ EARL GREY
observed, that at the time the noble and learned Lord was said not to have made up his mind, he had not, if he (Earl Grey) recollected rightly, been for forty-eight hours in possession of the important Report on which he was called upon to give an opinion. It would have been impossible to do the subject justice, without a proper time for deliberation.
§ The EARL of DERBY
My Lords, I am not very willing to add anything to this conversation; yet it is impossible for me, after what has taken place, to abstain from expressing my grateful thanks to my noble and learned Friend behind me (Lord Lyndhurst) for the testimony which he has borne to the public utility of the course which has been pursued by Her Majesty's Government during the present Session. But, my Lords, I think it would be exceedingly ungrateful, both to your Lordships and to the other House of Parliament, if I were to accept the compliment which my noble and learned Friend has paid to myself and to the other Members of the Government, without at the same time admitting, in the frankest and most 1405 unequivocating manner, that, for the success which has attended the measures which we have thought it our duty to press upon the attention of the Legislature, we are, in great measure, indebted to the absence of party spirit, both in this and in the other House of Parliament, which has eminently characterised the discussions of the present Session, and to the fairness with which our measures have been received both here and elsewhere, and without which it would have been exceedingly difficult for us to have carried our measures within the time allotted for the duration of the Session. And, my Lords, I think that if Her Majesty's Government are entitled to any of that merit for which my noble and learned Friend has given us credit, we are entitled to it especially for this—namely, for having resisted the importunities from various quarters, urging upon us, in the most vehement manner, to dissolve Parliament, at a time when it would have been exceedingly convenient, personally, to ourselves, to dissolve; but when we were restrained from adopting that step, and advising Her Majesty to take that course, by the consideration that, however convenient it might be to us, personally, to have a dissolution of Parliament at that moment, it would have entailed upon the country the great inconvenience of the postponement of many useful measures which we thought it to be our bounden duty to attempt to carry into law. My Lords, when I had the honour of addressing this House upon assuming the office to which Her Majesty appointed me, I specified certain measures which I admitted to be of paramount importance, and which I thought it was urgent or desirable, at all events, if not absolutely necessary, to pass into a law before appealing to the country by a dissolution of Parliament. My Lords, first and foremost among those measures I placed the contribution to the national defences of the country, involved in the passing of the Militia Bill—admitted by the late Government, and admitted by the present Government, to be a matter of imperative necessity; as next in importance, I referred to those great legal reforms for the suggestions of which we are, no doubt, indebted to the labours of the Commission appointed by our predecessors, but for the whole of the arrangements of which, and for the whole machinery upon which these Bills were founded on the Reports of the Commission, we are mainly, if not altogether, indebted to the activity, and zeal, 1406 and knowledge which were brought to bear upon the subject by my noble and learned Friend who has just left the woolsack (Lord St. Leonards). My Lords, in passing I must say—although I do not wish to draw any contrast whatever between ourselves and our predecessors, nor deprive them of any credit for their good intentions in pressing those measures on the consideration of Parliament—I must be permitted, in consequence of what has fallen from the noble Earl, to say that while he takes credit to the late Lord Chancellor for great prudence in having abstained from giving his opinion within forty-eight hours after having received the Report of the Commis-mission—admitting the fact to be that the late Lord Chancellor up to that moment had not made up his mind—yet I must at the same time be permitted to remind your Lordships that it seems rather singular, and somewhat inconsistent, that there should be a declaration in Her Majesty's Speech from the Throne expressing a determination on the part of the late Government to introduce measures founded upon the Report of the Commissioners, if the late Lord Chancellor at the time had not made up his mind whether it would be in his power to support those measures. And while I frankly admit that the credit of the measures themselves is due to the labours of the Commissioners, I must repeat that with regard to these measures, when we came into office there was not a single step taken towards bringing them into practical effect—there was not a single clause of the Bill drawn up. My Lords, in addition to the Militia Bill and those important legal reforms, with respect to which we had the testimony of the noble and learned Lord, the late Lord Chancellor, when he said that the magnitude and importance of the legal measures just passed would make the present Session memorable in the history of this reign and century—in addition to this, he thought it was of the utmost importance that no longer delay should exist in carrying into practical effect measures for extending representative institutions to one of our distant colonies, with regard to which, he said, if no measure had been passed, matters, in his opinion, would have been left in the most unsatisfactory position. Beyond this, we felt it was a matter of urgency and importance, if it were possible to do so, to introduce and carry through Parliament those measures which have been so long and so anxiously desired by this great metropolis; 1407 namely, measures for contributing to the health and comfort of its inhabitants, by promoting a system of extra-mural interment of the dead, and by improving and increasing the supply of water to the metropolis. My Lords, I stated at the commencement of the Session that we were desirous of abstaining, as far as possible, from all topics of a party or controversial character; and, if we deserve credit for anything, it is for having justly estimated that degree of public spirit which we believed would prevail both in this and the other House of Parliament, and for having believed that they would permit us to act upon the principle which we had announced, namely, of refraining from urging forward those measures which might lead to controversy, and inviting them to join with us, regardless of party considerations, in pressing forward those great measures which, apart from everything not imperatively called for by the good of the country, involved the military defences of the country, the promotion of vast improvements in the courts of law and equity, and provided for the sanitary welfare of the country. My Lords, I am happy to say that the House of Commons and your Lordships' House have fully justified the estimate which we formed of the public spirit of the Legislature. And although the expectation that it was possible to pass all those Bills, nay, I might almost say the possibility of passing any of them, was treated, in most instances, with a species of contemptuous ridicule, we have the satisfaction of seeing, at the close of one of the shortest Sessions on record, that not one of these great objects remains unaccomplished; and if this Government should cease to exist from the day upon which I am speaking, it will be a source of unfeigned congratulation and satisfaction to me, that the four months during which we have held office, have been marked by the passing of measures as important and as beneficial to the public interest, as have been passed in any previous Session under any Administration, however strong, and however powerful. But, my Lords, I must be permitted to say one word with reference to what fell from the noble Baron (Lord Beaumont) opposite, with regard to the credit which is due to the late Government. I hope that I have given credit where credit is due to the forbearance which characterised this and the other House of Parliament. But when he speaks with regard to the Government being notoriously in a minority in this 1408 and the other House of Parliament, the noble Lord will allow me to remind you that with regard to all those questions, the success which has attended them has not been owing to the forbearance of the supposed majority in expressing their opinions upon them; for most of those measures— some of them at all events—have encountered a resolute and determined opposition —an opposition not carried beyond fair and constitutional limits, but, at the same time, a persevering opposition; and there is no proof with regard to any of those measures, or any measure which we have thought it necessary to submit to the consideration of Parliament, that we have been, as a Government, in a minority in this or in the other House of Parliament. My Lords, upon one question in the other House, the Government were, no doubt, in a minority. That was a question on which it was thought (and I think not justifiably) among those that we were departing from the understanding we had held out at the commencement of the Session, and that it was a measure which ought not to be included among those which it was necessary to press forward during the present Parliament. That measure was objected to, not upon its merits, but on account of the period at which it was brought forward. My Lords, I have never concealed from your Lordships that with regard to one class of questions, Her Majesty's Government, if they had urged them forward, would have been in a minority in the other House of Parliament, and possibly in a minority in this; but I say that, with regard to the several measures which we have thought it urgent to press upon the consideration of Parliament, we have shown, in this and the other House of Parliament, that, in the carrying of those measures, we have not been deprived of the confidence of this or of the other branch of the Legislature. My Lords, we gratefully acknowledge that, while we have pursued, to the best of our ability, the course which I took the liberty of sketching out at the commencement of the Session, we have met with no factious opposition; we have encountered nothing but a fair, legitimate, and constitutional opposition in the other House of Parliament; and to your Lordships my especial thanks are due, for the consideration and kindness with which you have dealt with the measures which have been brought before you. I must say that if we had pursued the course which was suggested by the noble Lord opposite, and by some other Gentlemen—if we had 1409 dissolved Parliament at the commencement of the Session, and resumed the consideration of those measures at the commencement of a new Parliament, which might have met somewhere about the time at which I am now addressing your Lordships, I am perfectly of opinion that the result would have been, not only that time would have been absolutely wanting for carrying out those great measures, and one Session of Parliament would have been absolutely lost; but that, probably at the commencement of the new Parliament, public attention would have been addressed to them with much less consideration of the intrinsic merits of those questions, and much more in reference to the party feeling, than has been the case when during this interregnum of parties, we have had an opportunity of submitting to the calm and dispassionate consideration of both Houses of Parliament measures absolutely and entirely stripped of all party character. My Lords, I earnestly hope that when Parliament shall meet again, there may be the same forbearance and the same general disposition to treat with temper and moderation the subjects which may be brought under their consideration. But I cannot expect that party feeling will not mingle in our discussions—nay, more, I do not desire but that it should. My Lords, I will only say that, while, on the one hand, in any measure which it may be our duty to bring forward in the course of the next Session of Parliament, we shall not shrink from an endeavour to do justice to any of those classes of the community who we may think are suffering under an inequality of pressure and injustice of taxation—at the same time, I can assure your Lordships, with all sincerity and with all truth, that our endeavours will be directed rather to reconcile than to exasperate the feelings of difference between classes; and that, so far from seeking to support the interests of one class apart from the interests of the others, our object will he rather to obtain the confidence of the country at large by doing to the best of our ability, and with thorough impartiality, that which we believe to be called for by the claims of justice to all the various interests of the country.
§ EARL GREY
My Lords, the noble Earl who has just sat down has pointed attention to the circumstance of my noble and learned Friend Lord Truro not having arrived at a decided opinion as to the Chan- 1410 cery Bill, although the late Government announced, in the Speech from the Throne, that measures of legal reform would be brought forward. There is no inconsistency in what I said on that subject, because, as your Lordships may remember, it was upon points of detail, and not upon the principle of that Bill, that my noble and learned Friend Lord Truro refused to express his opinion. The general principle of a measure of Chancery reform was clearly and unhesitatingly determined upon by Her Majesty's late Government; but my noble and learned Friend Lord Truro was pressed, within forty-eight hours from the Report of the Commissioners being placed in his hands, to declare his opinion, not only as to the general principles of the measure, but as to its details; and it was on them, and them only, that I said he declined to give any opinion. I certainly am not going to follow the noble Earl through the statement which he has just made. I have no wish to find fault with his having congratulated himself, the House, and the country, on the result of the present Session. I have no fault to find with his statement. I believe with him that the fact that a great many useful measures have been passed during the present Session, is mainly to be attributed, as he himself has stated, to the circumstance of there having been a short interregnum of parties. It is that circumstance which has facilitated the passing of many important measures. I may also add, that it is greatly owing to the circumstance that, fortunately for this House and the noble Lords opposite, Her Majesty's Government found that, with respect to these measures —I will give them credit for the judgment they have shown—they might safely adopt the principles and views of their predecessors. Many of the measures which they found ready to be submitted by the late Government, they adopted, although, if in opposition, those very measures would have been most strongly opposed by the present Government. Now, my Lords, on this subject I cannot help mentioning one case, trivial, no doubt, but still it is a sample of the great extent to which the views and measures of the late Government have been adopted by the present. Great credit has been taken by the noble and learned Lord opposite for the passing of the New Zealand Bill, and, more especially, for some clauses in that Bill. Now, I cannot help reminding your Lordships that one of 1411 the most important clauses of that Bill, and which reconciled a number of persons who would otherwise have been dissatisfied with it, was that by which the Legislature of New Zealand will be enabled to make future reforms in the constitution which has been granted to them by that Bill—I cannot, I say, help reminding your Lordships that two years ago a similar clause —precisely in the same terms—in the Australian Bill, met the determined resistance of the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Derby), and of the party by which he was then supported. I believe there was a division upon the subject; but, at all events, that clause was considered by the noble Earl opposite to be a great departure from all propriety, and we were informed that if Parliament gave a constitution, Parliament should reserve to itself, and to itself only, the power of altering the constitution granted. I remember the answer of the noble Earl opposite on that occasion, and I am glad, now that the responsibility of Government has been placed upon him, that he has adopted the views which were entertained upon that subject by Her Majesty's late Government. I cannot but express congratulation with respect to the measures passed this Session; but I think the great facility with which they were passed is not a little owing to the circumstances to which I have referred.
§ LORD BEAUMONT
When I stated that the Government was in a minority, I actually quoted words which fell from the noble Earl and some of his Colleagues. And when he states that he has been able to carry out his policy, I join issue with him upon the subject, and say that the noble Earl simply carried out the policy of his predecessors, and that he has not submitted to this Parliament any measure—
§ LORD BEAUMONT
Aye. You carried out measures which you adopted from recommendations made by Commissioners appointed by the late Government. You carried out measures which were suggested by your predecessors.