HL Deb 25 June 1867 vol 188 cc496-503

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


, in moving that the Bill be now read the second time, said, that the Government were not responsible for this measure, which had been originally introduced in the other House, and which they merely undertook to introduce on behalf of the Charity Commissioners. The object of the Bill was to alter, in some respects, the nature of a bequest made by Mr. Thomas Brown some years ago for the purpose of founding a Sanitary Institution for animals useful to man. Mr. Brown, who had taken a very great interest in the study of the nature of animals and their protection, had appropriated a considerable sum of money for this purpose, and left it to the University of London, directing that the fund should accumulate for fifteen years and then be applied to the purposes mentioned in his will. If the University of London failed so to apply it within a period of nineteen years from the date of his death, the sum was to lapse to the University of Dublin, and be applied in the foundation of professorships of Sanskrit, Arabic, and other Eastern languages. Practically the mode in which the fund was to be applied was that the University of London should found a Sanitary Institution for Animals — to provide not only for the study of veterinary science, but also for the treatment of animals in a kind of hospital. The Charity Commissioners, in considering the scheme, gave it as their opinion that the mode proposed by the testator in providing such a hospital, would occasion so much expense as practically to limit the useful objects the testator had in view in founding a department of veterinary science, and they proposed that that part of the will should be dispensed with which required a private hospital to be built for the reception and treatment of animals, and that the University of London should be allowed to appropriate the large sum which had accumulated—about £30,000—in the foundation of professorships for the special duty of veterinary science, under the control of the London University. The University of Dublin opposed that plan on the ground that they had a contingent interest in the bequest, and that, if the terms of the will were not strictly complied with, the bequest lapsed to them for the foundation of professorships in the Oriental languages, In reply to that the University of London professed their willingness to carry out the intentions of the testator in the manner laid down in the will, and thus secure their right to the bequest, and shut out the University of Dublin from their contingent interest. The Object of the present Bill was to enable the Charity Commissioners to carry out their plan in preference to that contained in the will. He moved that the Bill be read a second time, and suggested that it be referred to a Select Committee, where both parties might be heard in defence of their interests.

Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a."—The Lord President.


said, that the two Universities had but one common object—namely, the advancement of science; but as for the Charity Commissioners, he did not think they had been quite successful in making out their case. The whole thing had been involved in mystery. It was with great difficulty he had been able to ascertain who Mr. Thomas Brown was, and how a gentleman residing in London should have made such a bequest alternatively to the University of Dublin. It turned out, however, that Mr. Brown was a native of Dublin. He came over here, met with a serious accident, was crippled, pined, and died. Just before his death the importance of establishing professorships of the Eastern languages had been much talked of, and hence his desire that they should be founded in the University of Dublin. If these professorships were founded there they would be no sinecures. He had carefully in the will, and could say that there could be no doubt of the intentions of the testator, and that there was nothing unreasonable in them. He contended that if the University of London did not strictly carry out the intention of the testator the fund, beyond all question, belonged to the University of Dublin. He moved that the Bill be read a second time that day six months.

Amendment moved to leave out "Now" and insert "this day six months."—(The Earl of Rosse.)


opposed the Bill, which had not a shadow of justice to recommend it. The testator (Mr. Thomas Brown) left a very foolish and eccentric bequest; possibly he foresaw his object would not be carried out, and therefore he introduced a second clause into his will, to the effect that if the London University failed to establish an institution for the care and treatment of animals and birds useful to man, the money should go to the Dublin University for the foundation of professorships of Oriental languages—a very useful object in these days of competitive examination. Surely their Lordships would not sanction an alteration of the testator's bequest in the interest of the University of London, and so prevent the University of Dublin fulfilling the higher object which the testator had indicated? The Charity Commissioners said, and it was not creditable to them, that if Parliament did not santion the modification of the bequest they would adopt a dog-in-the-manger policy and found a dog sanatorium. He felt it to be his duty to oppose such a waste of money.


approved the suggestion that the facts of the case should be sifted by a Select Committee. He thought the objects of the testator had been very unfairly described by the right rev. Prelate; but he could not agree with the noble Duke (the Duke of Marlborough) in repudiating on behalf of the Government all responsibility in connection with the Bill, for neither Members of the Government nor others had a right to introduce Bills without incurring some responsibility. The Charity Commissioners were instituted for the purpose of dealing with difficult cases of this sort, where it would be beyond the usual power of the Court of Chancery to intervene, and any scheme which they propounded should be listened to attentively and thoroughly sifted by Parliament; and for that reason, and because a prominent Member of the Government was on the Commission, the Government were not to throw aside their responsibility for the measure and almost invite hostility to it. He was bound to admit that the proposal of the noble Duke to refer the Bill to a Select Committee was fair and reasonable, especially considering the pressure to which he had been subjected on behalf of the Dublin University. The bequest had proved a very troublesome one to the London University; and had been before the Court of Chancery, where the University had succeeded in sustaining the will; the law officers of the Crown had also been consulted in the matter, and the London University ultimately found that it could accept the trust. It must be remembered that at the very time we were considering this subject it was declared that veterinary science was not so far advanced as it ought to be. In discussions in Parliament it had been stated how necessary it was to give certain powers to Inspectors, but that the great difficulty was to get qualified veterinary surgeons. The interest of the £30,000 in question would enable the London University to carry out to a limited extent the intentions of the testator; but they thought they could be carried out substantially and in a far more practical manner by the advancement of veterinary science. The London University therefore applied to the Charity Commissioners to be allowed to vary the literal application of the trust money, and the Charity Commissioners were unanimously of opinion that the scheme was a right one, and worthy of being propounded to Parliament. When the noble Lord put it that the alternative was between going contrary to the testator's wish and establishing Sanskrit professorships, he put an alternative which did not exist; for the London University had accepted the limited trust, and the real question was, whether it would not be infinitely more useful to carry out the improved scheme that was recommended than to endeavour to fulfil the literal conditions of the trust. That being the question, the Dublin University had scarcely any locus standi in the matter. He implored their Lordships not hastily to reject this Bill, but to adopt the proposal made by the Government, and to refer the Bill to a Select Committee, where counsel on both sides could be heard and the whole facts of the case sifted.


said, the question was not whether Mr. Brown had made the wisest will, nor whether their Lordships could not have made a better. Mr. Brown would, perhaps, have done a wiser thing if he had left his considerable property to Members of his own family; but that was a matter of opinion. The question now was whether the Charity Commissioners had a right to make a new will for the testator. That was the question to be decided before the Bill could be approved. The story was a most curious one. There were no disputed facts to be inquired into. Mr. Brown, by his will, directed that an institution should be established for the reception of quadrupeds and birds useful to man, wherein those that were afflicted with disease might be cured. His family appealed to the Court of Chancery, and said, "Really, this is no charity, and it is a direction so difficult of execution, so vague and indefinite, that it ought not to receive the confirmation of the law as a good and valid charity." But the Court of Chancery decided that it was a perfectly good charity, and could be carried into effect to the letter. Then a difficulty arose in consequence of a clause in the will providing that the money should accumulate for fifteen years, and that if at the expiration of that time the London University, or the governing body of the Senate, declined to accept the trust, or eventually neglected to found and establish such Animals' Sanitary Institution within nineteen years from the date of the testator's death, or if the said University ceased at any time to conduct the institution in accordance with the provisions of the will, then the whole of the testator's property was to go to the Provost, Fellows, and Scholars of the University of Dublin for a certain purpose, which was quite immaterial as far as the present discussion was concerned. It did not matter whether the testator's object was to found Sanskrit professorships or not; all that their lordships had to consider was that this was a gift over. The noble Earl (Earl Granville), however, asserted that the London University might carry out the trust to the letter. Well, if they wished to do so they did not require an Act of Parliament. The testator thought, and very wisely, that the best way to have his wishes accomplished was to say that unless they were complied with to the letter, the property should go over to the University of Dublin at the end of nineteen years; and it was not for the Charity Commissioners, nor even for Parliament, to overrule the decision of the Court of Chancery, make a new will for the testator, and deprive the Dublin University of the contingent interest which it possessed in the property. There must be some difficulty in the way, for otherwise the London University would not have applied to the Charity Commissioners. The University of London had a perfect right to superintend the disposal of the money if they complied with the terms of the trust; but he maintained, however, that if the University of London did not comply with the conditions of the will, the property belonged to the University of Dublin. The new scheme might be a very good one, but it was, at all events, totally different from that of the testator, because it swept entirely away the idea of a sanatorium, and substituted for it the general idea of improving veterinary science. It provided for lectures being given and medals being conferred; but the poor quadrupeds and birds were altogether forgotten. The facts of the case were indisputable; and the question for their Lordships to decide was, whether they should alter a will which had recently been made, and the utility of which had been affirmed by the proper legal tribunal. If this Bill were delegated to a Select Committee without carrying with it the weight of a second reading, their Lordships would be simply delegating the decision of the question which they were now called upon to consider. If the Committee came to the determination that the will should be set aside, that House would feel disposed to canvass that decision on the third reading of the Bill. In conclusion, he expressed a hope that their Lordships would not take the violent step of setting aside the will of the testator.


said, he believed the noble and learned Lord who had just spoken (Lord Cairns) had expressed the opinions generally entertained in that House. The noble and learned Lord, however, did not deny that the scheme was a good one; but on this point he (Lord Talbot de Malahide) joined issue with the promoters of the Bill. He had the greatest possible respect for the opinion of the late President of the Council, but he did not think his noble Friend had given such a full consideration to the details of the scheme as to justify him in saying that if it were carried out it would be a great public advantage. He would merely suggest that, if their Lordships desired to form a correct opinion respecting the merits of this scheme for veterinary education, they ought to consider whether a system of medical education, carried on without hospitals, without dis- sections, and without clinical practice, could possibly be of any great value.


remarked that the question really at issue was that of a disputed legacy. Such a question ought not to have been decided by the Charity Commissioners; it ought to be decided judicially by the Court of Chancery. If that House passed the second reading of the Bill, there was no reason why it should not legislate in regard to any other disputed will.


said, that in many instances applications had been made to Parliament, and power had been given to alter the disposition of property under wills in the case of charitable corporations so long as the general scope and intention of the testator were preserved. Dulwich College was a case in point. In various other cases changes had been made, in some for the promotion of medical science, in others for the advancement of education, and in others again for the more efficient distribution of money left for charitable purposes. Schemes had often been submitted to the Court of Chancery under the authority of Acts of Parliament for the purpose of placing various charities in a position more in accordance with modern usages than they could be under the strict letter of the will. Disputes also had arisen as to the application of the funds; but in a great many cases the result was that they were carried on so long as to completely impoverish the charity, and therefore he always deprecated bringing forward new schemes where they were strenuously opposed, and where the opponents were the authorities connected with parishes who showed a disposition to fight as to the amount which should be appropriated to each to the last moment. So far as he could ascertain the merits of the case in the present instance, he thought it would be advisable that the Bill should be read a second time, and the whole subject referred to a Select Committee.


agreed with the noble and learned Lord (Lord Cairns) that there was no question in dispute arising on the will of the testator.

On Question, That ("now") stand Part of the Motion? their Lordships divided:—Contents 16; Not-Contents 48: Majority 32.

Marlborough, D. Halifax, V.
Hardinge, V. [Teller.]
Normanby, M. Sydney, V.
Airlie, E. Belper, L.
De Grey, E. Boyle, L. (E. Cork and Orrery.)
Granville, E.
Kimberley, E. Cranworth, L.
Portsmouth, E. Ponsonby, L. (E. Bessborough.) [Teller.]
Russell, E.
Stanley of Alderley, L.
Beaufort, D. Stradbroke, E.
Buckingham and Chandos, D. Tankerville, E.
Cleveland, D. De Vesci, V.
Hawarden, V.
Abercorn, M.
Bath, M. [Teller.] Down, &c., Bp.
Exeter, M.
Bagot, L.
Amherst, E. Bolton, L.
Bandon, E. Cairns, L.
Belmore, E. Clonbrock, L.
Bradford, E. Colville of Culross, L.
Brownlow, E. Denman, L.
Cadogan, E. Foley, L.
Camperdown, E. Foxford, L. (E. Limerick.)
Cowper, E.
Dartrey, E. Lyttelton, L.
Ellenborough, E. Raglan, L.
Graham, E. (D. Montrose.) Redesdale, L.
Saltersford, L. (E. Courtown.)
Grey, E.
Haddington, E. Silchester, L, (E. Longford.)
Harrowby, E.
Lichfleld, E. Skelmersdale, L.
Malmesbury, E. Somerhill, L. (M. Clanricarde.) [Teller.]
Morley, E.
Powis, E. Talbot de Malahide, L.
Romney, E. Tredegar, L.
Rosse, E.

Resolved in the Negative; and Bill to be read 2a on this Day Six Months.