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It was the intention of the Editor to give, in an introductory chapter, a review of the various legislative enactments affecting the relation of Master and Servant from the earliest times to the present. But this has been done so thoroughly and ably in the report of the Commissioners to inquire into the working of the Labour Laws, as they existed in 1874, that he is confident he cannot do better than extract the principal portions of that report to lay before the reader as the most lucid and comprehensive statement that can be given on the subject.
The Royal Commission was issued on the 19th March, 1874, directed to Sir Alexander James Edmund Cockburn, Bart., Chief Justice of the Queen's Bench; Lord Winmarleigh; Edward Pleydell Bouverie, Esq.; Russell Gurney, Esq., Q.C., Recorder of London ; Sir Montague Edward Smith, Member of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council; John Arthur Roebuck, Esq., Q.C.; Thomas Hughes, Esq., Q.C.; Gabriel Goldney, Esq.; and Alexander Macdonald, Esq. ; appointing them Commissioners “to inquire into the working of the Master and Servant Act, 1867, and of the Criminal Law Amendment Act (34 & 35 Vict. cap. 32), and whether any, and, if any, what amendment or alteration in the provisions of
those Acts, or either of them, is desirable, and also to inquire whether it is expedient to limit or define the law relating to Conspiracy, either generally, or as affecting the relation of masters and workmen.”
The Commissioners held several meetings, and examined a great number of witnesses, who were classified as witnesses against the Acts, witnesses in favour of the Acts, and witnesses who had been officially engaged in administering the Acts.
The principal witnesses against the Acts were representatives of the working classes, but the Commissioners reported that with reference to the Master and Servant Act of 1867 they were, "owing to the decided opposition made to the Commission by the Trades Unions generally," unable to obtain much satisfactory evidence in support of the complaints made as to the alleged “unjust or oppressive operation of that statute.
The Commissioners made their final report on the 17th February, 1875 (a).
After reciting the terms of the Commission, the report proceeds thus :
“ The several branches of our inquiry being in our opinion, though intimately connected, yet sufficiently distinct for us to consider them separately, we determined to consider first the Master and Servant Act, 1867, then the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1871, and, finally, the Law of Conspiracy; and in pursuance of such determination, having collected evidence as well documentary as oral on the
(a) It is generally understood that the report was drawn up by the Lord Chief Justice (Ed.).
subject of the Master and Servant Act, 1867, though we did not deem it desirable to make a separate report on that Act, we deemed it proper to submit to your Majesty, with our first report, the evidence so collected (6).
“ Several years having elapsed since the passing of the Master and Servant Act, we considered it our duty to obtain all the information we could procure as to the practical working of the Act, and we took the necessary steps at the outset of our inquiry to procure evidence on this head. In the first place we caused application to be made to the clerks of justices of the peace of many of the petty sessional divisions of Great Britain and Ireland, at which, as we gathered from returns made to addresses of the Honourable the House of Commons in the years 1873 and 1874, convictions under the Act had taken place, for copies of the depositions in some of those cases, and we were duly supplied with them.
“Considering that the discussion on the merits of the Master and Servant Act had been mainly brought about by the objections made against it by the representatives of the working men, and their complaints as to its operation, we deemed it highly desirable to have any facts brought to our attention on which such objections and complaints might be founded. We addressed ourselves to the Secretary of the London Trades Union Congress Parliamentary Committee, as representing the interests of the employed, as also to certain associations of employers of labour, who had volunteered to give evidence of the working of the Act, inviting them to furnish us with evidence in relation to the Act, and to any
(b) The first report was merely formal (Ed.).
complaints they were prepared to advance either to its principle or to its administration.
“ In reply to such application, very full information as to the working of the Act and as to the necessity for it has been afforded to us by many of the employers to whom we addressed ourselves; but we regret to say that, in consequence of the decided opposition to the inquiry made by the representatives of the employed, with some few exceptions, we have been unable to obtain the same or similar information from the employed or their representatives. The Secretary of the London Trades Union Congress Parliamentary Committee, which represents a very great number of the employed, in reply to the application addressed to him requesting him either himself to give, or to assist us to obtain, evidence of the working of the Act, declined to assist the Commission in its labours in any way, aud only forwarded to us a copy of a resolution passed by that Committee to the same effect.
“Afterwards we adopted the same course in relation to the working of the Criminal Law Amendment Act, and have collected such evidence as we could obtain-documentary evidence from the clerks of the justices of the peace for the petty sessional divisions in the United Kingdom-oral from several persons, representatives of the employers and employed.
“ The subject matter of our inquiry divides itself into two branches: 1, the law relating to breaches of the contract of hiring and service, as between employers and employed inter se, contained in the Master and Servant Act, 1867; 2, the law relating to interference by third parties with the relation of master and servant as to rights acquired or sought to be