HL Deb 18 March 1862 vol 165 cc1707-8

in moving the second reading of the Bill said, he would briefly state the circumstances which had given rise to its introduction. Their Lordships would recollect the case of the fugitive slave John Anderson, which excited a great deal of interest both in this country and America some months since. Anderson was charged with the murder of a person in the State of Missouri, who was endeavouring to prevent his escape from slavery. He effected his escape into Canada; where, on the application of an officer from the State of Missouri, he was committed to prison in order that a requisition might be made from the Government of the United States for him to be delivered up under the articles of the Ashburton Treaty of 1842 relating to the extradition of offenders. Before any action could be taken, Anderson sued out a writ of Habeas corpus in the Court of Queen's Bench in Upper Canada, the result of which was that he was remanded to gaol by the decision of two Judges against one. He appealed against that decision to the Court of Common Fleas in Canada, and was released on some technicalities in the proceedings before the committing magistrate.

Meanwhile, at the instance of the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society in this country, application was made to the Court of Queen's Bench in England for a writ of Habeas corpus to bring Anderson from Toronto to England; and that writ was granted and sent out to Canada. Before its arrival, however, Anderson, as he had stated, had been liberated by the Court of Common Pleas in Canada on some technicality which occurred in the early portion of the proceedings against him. The fact of a writ having been issued by the Court of Queen's Bench in this country to a colony in which a Court of Queen's Bench already existed, naturally created a great sensation in the colonies; and the right to issue such writs having been disputed, his (the Duke of Newcastle's) attention was officially called to the question. The matter was referred to the law officers of the Crown, and with their assistance the present Bill had been draughted. It was then submitted for the consideration of the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, and afterwards forwarded to Canada that it might be submitted to the local authorities. In their opinion the provisions of this Bill entirely met the difficulty, and he thought their Lordships would not object to sanction a measure which simply provided that no writ of Habeas corpus shall issue out of England by the authority of any Court therein into any colony or foreign dominion of the Crown where there existed any court of justice having authority to grant that writ and to ensure its due execution. On the mere ground that justice could not well be done in a case where the Judges were at one side of the Atlantic and the witnesses on the other, he thought their Lordships would be disposed to agree to the second reading. As there was no objection to the Bill, he did not propose to trouble their Lordships at any greater length.

Moved, "That the Bill be now read the second time."


said, he did not oppose the second reading of the Bill, but suggested that it would be prudent to omit from the preamble the words relating to the single case to which the noble Duke had referred, and to rest the legislation on general grounds.


thought that it might be desirable to act upon this suggestion.

Motion agreed to.

Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.