HL Deb 21 June 1861 vol 163 cc1376-8

moved that four Bills on the subject, which had passed the Commons, should be read a first time, and congratulated the House on their progress.


heartily joined in the congratulations of the Lord Chancellor. His hopes were now sanguine that we should at length have a digest of at least the criminal law, and it had been, hitherto, almost impossible not to despair. For many years he had laboured strenuously to obtain this great benefit to our jurisprudence and to the county. Above twelve years ago he had so far succeeded that the Commissioners, whom when in office he had appointed, having reported the heads of a Bill he had framed, a digest of which was fully discussed in a Select Committee; and another digest had been afterwards prepared by him from the report of the learned and experienced Commissioners, and afterwards examined by a Select Committee, with the assistance of experienced and skilful practitioners. We had the invaluable assistance, also, of Members of this House, not law Lords, of whom one might be named, as he was not now present, Lord Overstone, whose high commercial station, and whose great weight, arising from his position, but still more his eminent sagacity and acuteness was of incalculable value in the inquiry. But, when all was prepared and reported to the House, it was found utterly hopeless to have the other House's adoption of it. If that House, with all its magistrates and lawyers, were to discuss three or four hundred clauses of a digest, whose only purpose was the consolidation of the law and not its alteration, it was absolutely impossible that it should be carried. There was but one way of having such digest, if you really desire to have one. As Lord Lyndhurst had observed, either you wish for a digest or you do not. If you will not commit the preparing it to men in whom you can confide, but are resolved to have each word discussed in the Commons, confess at once that you do not want to have a digest. Only consider how the discussion must go on. The magistrates are a most valuable body of men; they perform inestimable service to the country with the utmost integrity, the most exemplary diligence, and fair ability. But they are not made for discussing the phraseology of Acts of Parliament. The bare idea of two or three hundred clauses, discussed clause by clause, in a House having half a hundred county justices, twenty or thirty town magistrates, and many more country gentlemen, whose solicitors, or whose sons preparing for the Bar, set them on and furnish them with objections to every other word of the digest, was enough to make the least somnolent slumber, and turn the steadiest head. There is but one way of obtaining what we all want, and that is to delegate the details to skilful and trustworthy persons, and to adopt the result of their labours. The Commons, happily, have at length admitted this truth in passing the Bills sent down from this House, and he rejoiced so heartily in the prospect afforded, that he no longer regretted the long years of labour which he had bestowed on it, and till now without hopes of the public or the law reaping any fruit from his toil.

Back to