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Law Reforms-The Lord Chancellor gives notice of Bills relating to
Bankruplcy, Lunacy, and County Courls-His Speech on the Second Reading—They pass the House of Lords-County Courts' Bill is postponed till the following Session - The other iwo Bills carried-Lord Campbell proposes Bills lo aller the constitution of Courts of Appeal-They are rejected in the House of LordsMarriage Law-Motion of Lord F. Egerton, for leave to bring in a Bill to legalise Marriages contracted with deceased Wife's SisterSpeech of Sir R. Inglis against the Motion—It is supported by Mr. Milnes, Mr. Borthwick, Mr. C. Buller, and Mr. C. Wood; and opposed by Mr. Goulburn, Lord Ashley, the Solicitor-General, and Mr. O'Connell-On a Division it is negatived by 123 to 100— Bill for the better Protection of the Royal Person, introduced by Sir Robert Peel, in consequence of the outrages of Bean and Francis It is carried immediately in both Houses—Church Rates ; Sir John Easthope's Bill for their Abolition--It is opposed by Sir R. Inglis and Mr. Goulburn, and rejected by 162 to 82-Grant to Maynooth College-Mr. Plumptre, Mr. Baleson, Sir H. Smith, Colonel Verner, and other Members speak against it—Speech of Lord Eliot -It is affirmed by a Majority of 47— Poor Law Amendment Bill, introduced by Sir James Graham-Principal Objects and Provisions of the Measure-A few of the Clauses are carried, and the rest postponed-Mr. Escott makes a Motion against the principle of excluding Out-door Relief-Sir James Graham opposes it, and it is rejecled after a Discussion, by 90 to 55—Review of the SessionLord Palmerston moves for Řeturns to show the number of Bills brought into the House of Commons, and the Result as to each-He reviews the Domestic and Foreign Policy of the Government at great length, and with much sarcasm- He is ably unswered by Sir Robert Peel, who relorts severely on the Whig party-Prorogation of Parliament by the Queen, on the 12th of August-Her Majesty's Speech-Concluding Remarks.
In the Lord Chancellor had an-
nistration of the Law of Banknounced to the House of Lords ruptcy, to proceedings in cases of three important measures of legal lunacy, and to the establishment reform, which he proposed to in- of a system of Local Courts through. troduce and discuss together. They out the country.
Difficulties, however, arose, as inquiries were of the nicest and most he afterwards stated, which re- delicate character. He proposed tarded the introduction of the last that two Commissioners should be of these measures, and other sub- appointed, for the purpose jects of more exciting interest cuting all those Commissions, not meanwhile pressed upon the at- only in the Metropolitan districts, tention of Parliament, insomuch but throughout the country. From that it was not till the 18th of an examination into details, to which July, when the session was almost he need not advert, he was satisexpiring, that any discussion on fied that those two Commissioners these measures took place.
would be amply sufficient for disThe Lord Chancellor then stated charging those and other importto the House the details of the al. ant duties connected with lunacy. terations which he proposed. Ad. The payment of Commissioners by verting first to the subject of fees would be abolished; it tended bankruptcy, he commenced by to prolong the inquiry, and inpaying a compliment to Lord crease the expense ; in one case, Brougham upon the improvements for instance, the expense of exin that department of the law amining into the lunacy of a perwhich he had introduced : "That on whose income was 191. 10s., system, however, excellent as it had amounted to 2,104l. ; and in was, comprised within its juris- another case, the committee died, diction only a circuit of forty miles and it was necessary to appoint anround London. He proposed to other. The Commissioners would extend the Metropolitan district be added to the visitors at present to a hundred miles round London; appointed to inspect the condition which would add a fifth to the of lunatics. They would be taken business of the Commissioners, from among the highest members without inconvenience to them. of the Bar.' For the country it was proposed Lord Lyndhurst objected to any to appoint Commissioners at five sweeping change of the existing central points, in five great towns County Courts; his measure went beyond the London district, invest- merely to extend their jurisdiction. ed with the same power which was County Courts were a part of our at present reposed in the London ancient system of judicature. They Commissioners. They would per- were presided over by the county form the same quantity of duty clerk, whose jurisdiction extended now performed by the London to 40s. They might be held in Commissioners having, a similar any part of the county.
If he range and a similar jurisdiction.” appointed a particular place, and
The course with the Law of gave them a jurisdiction to the exLunacy was somewhat similar : tent of 51., and appointed persons “ 'The Law of Lunacy was ad- of respectability and learning to ministered like that of Bankruptcy, preside over them, as he proposed the London Commissioners having to do by this Bill, he thought he jurisdiction for twenty miles round did not innovate upon this ancient the Metropolis; and the country institution. He proposed further, Commissions being, like those of that for the recovery of debts to Bankruptcy, directed to persons of the amount of 201., persons should little or no experience, though the be appointed judges of these courts,
who should not reside in the pro- County Courts, which, owing to vinces where they administered the want of adequate time for the the law, but that they should discussion of a measure so importmake circuits, like the judges of ant and comprehensive, was put the land, into the provinces with off till the following year. which they were not acquainted, Another Bill, introduced by Sir and where they had no local con- James Graham, for the amendnexions or prejudices. He pro- ment of the law relating to the posed that there should be six or Registration of Voters in England, eight circuits a year, to be made was, from the same necessity, deby barristers of a certain standing, layed. to be appointed by the Crown; An attempt was made by Lord who should return to the Metro- Campbell earlier in the session, by polis after the circuits, where they three Bills which he proposed, could mix with their colleagues to alter the administration of the in the profession, and thus there House of Lords as a Court of Apwould be a security for the uni- peal, to alter the system of apformity of the law they admis peal to the Judicial Committee of nistered. Her Majesty in Council the Privy Council, and to amend would appoint the times and the the administration of the Court of places for holding these courts. Chancery. He advocated change,
Lord Cottenham expressed his on the ground that two co-ordi. approval of the Bills as far as they nate appellate jurisdictions, that of went; but complained of some the Privy Council and of the House omissions in them, especially the of Lords, did not work well in omission any amendment of the practice. If then one were to be law relating to Insolvency.
retained instead of two, he would Lord Brougham admitted that prefer the House of Lords; that the measures were useful, though jurisdiction practically worked well. they fell short of the exigency. He would, therefore, make it the
Lord Campbell, approving of Court of Appeal from all other parts of the Bills; regarded the courts, abolishing appeals to the omissions as su important, that he Privy Council. Its sittings should, could not support the Bills as a however, be permanent, and not whole.
only during the session of ParliaThe Bills were then read a ment. It should be presided over second time, and afterwards passed by the Chancellor, whose place in through the other stages unop
the Court of Chancery should be posed, and went down to the supplied by another judge, who House of Commons.
might be selected from among the Some attempts were there made Vice-Chancellors. This plan would to induce the Government to post- remove the absurdity of appeals pone the consideration of them, from the Lord Chancellor at Linowing to the late period of the coln's-Inn to the Lord Chancellor session at which they were intro- in the House of Lords. duced, and the press of business The Lord Chancellor strongly then existing. The Government, objected to abolishing the appel. however, declined to defer the late jurisdiction of the Privy Coun. Bills, with the exception of that He thought it admirably relating to the establishment of adapted for the consideration of the subjects that came before it. was raised in the early part of the Questions were brought before it, session by Lord E. Egerton, who involving almost every kind of law moved for leave to bring in a Bill on the face of the earth. There to alter the laws relating to marwas the Colonial law, every kind riage within certain degrees of afof European law, every kind of finity. He stated that he did so Eastern law, Spanish law, French not without expectation of enlaw, both according to the new countering some serious opposition. code and the old, Dutch law, Until 1835, a large class of marEnglish law, both Common Law riages within the prohibited deand Equity, the Colonial statutes, grees were not void ab initio, but and in addition to these, the Orien- were voidable by a sentence obtal law, the Indian law, and the tained from the Ecclesiastical Court. Mahomedan law: there was also In 1835, an Act was passed which the Ecclesiastical law. The con- rendered valid all marriages of stitution of the tribunal was ad. that class previously solemnized ; mirably adapted to the purpose of but in the progress of the measure dealing with questions embracing another enactinent was grafted on so vast a range of judicial know- it, how, he knew not, which deledge. There were judges of Eng- clared all such marriages thereafter land to decide on questions of Com- contracted, void ab initio. The inmon Law, and the equity judges consistency of annulling prospecto decide upon matters of Equity. tively marriages which were affirmThere were the judges of the Ec- ed retrospectively, was felt at the clesiastical Courts to decide upon time; and there was reason to bequestions arising out of the Eccle- lieve, that, owing to the lateness of siastical law; and with regard to the session, consent was given to Eastern law, there were among this part of the Act, without the dethe Judicial Committee two ho- liberation due to the ultimate bearnourable and learned individuals, ings of the new law. Thus the who had filled the highest judicial matter had rested from that time. situations in the East, and who It might be asked, whether it was were able to give advice to the discreet thus quieta movere ? but Committee on questions connected whether the House agreed to this with Oriental law. As to the al- particular measure or not, circumleged inconvenience of the co-or- stances had occurred which rendinate jurisdiction, there had not dered it absolutely necessary that been a single instance of conflicting the attentive consideration of the decisions in 200 years.
Legislature should be given to the Lord Brougham thought that subject in all its bearings. He the evils complained of by Lord would make bold to say, that the Campbell existed rather in theory law of 1835 did not go forth to than in practice.
the country with the sanction of Lord Cottenham expressed a the Legislature, after having been hesitating approval of the pro- fully and fairly considered; neither posed measures.
was the law consistent with the The Bills were brought in, but practice of the British community, did not pass the second reading. or with the Christian Protestant
A question of much general in- communities of Europe. He would terest respecting the Marriage Law further assert, that the law did
not carry with it that weight much deference to the opinion of which secured to our statutes obe- that body. On such a subject as dience from all who were not this, he had considerable deference determined and very profligate for the opinion of a large body of law-breakers. He could tell the solicitors, unless he thought that House, that the statute had been that opinion was biassed by profesresisted and evaded by men of a sional views of their own interest. far different complexion than profli- Attornies were, probably, better gate and professed law-breakers. acquainted than any other class in He believed he was entitled to say, society with the social current and that it had been evaded to a large stream of life running through all extent by men of all classes—by ranks and grades. They were persons of education, and by per- often the archivists he might say, sons who had no other moral slur the confessors - of families : and in or taint upon their character than this instance, he was disposed to what this law, which they deemed think more favourably of their to be unjustly founded, might be opinion, because what they were considered by some to convey. This calling upon the Legislature to do alone, he thought, was a fact suf. was directly in the teeth of their ficient to show the necessity at own professional interests. He releast of considering whether, if membered a story of two foxthey determined to retuin the law, hunters falling into a quarry: one it was not necessary to make it of them was upon the point of effectual for the purpose for which warning the rest of the field of it was intended ; its main purpose the danger, when the other said, being the prevention of great do- “ Lie still; hold your tongue, and mestic unhappiness, and of fre- we shall have them all in the pit quent and expensive litigation with presently." Now if these attornies regard to the rights of inheritance had been low-minded, self-seeking and of property. That object had men, they might have said, “ Don't not been gained by the present warn the Legislature of those evils; law: and why? - because those hold your tongue, and we shall soon persons who thought themselves have a plentiful crop of lawsuits morally and religiously entitled to pass through our hands, which will infringe the statute, resorted not bring grist to the mill.” Some merely to countries beyond the seven years had passed since this dominion of the law, but, he had law was enacted : many children been told, resorted to Scotland it had been born from marriages self for that purpose.
which it was supposed the law The utmost uncertainty prevaile treated as void ; and he would ed amongst lawyers as to the ac- venture to say, that the seeds of tual efficiency of that evasion ; and litigation were now lying dormant, lawyers of eminence were daily and which would by-and-by flourish, hourly consulted as to the means and yield a most plenteous harvest. by which the existing law could be That harvest he wished to prevent. evaded. The solicitors of London The Bill which he desired to and other places had petitioned for introduce, was identical with that a remedy for that state of things. which · Lord Wharncliffe had forHe had understood that these pe- merly brought forward in the House titions had been spoken of without of Lords; and a principal point of it