H́nh ảnh trang

of prosecutions, by the fact of the vast increase of periodical publications. Of this he gave the House an idea from the circumstance that in last January alone there were no fewer than 2,037,000 stamps for newspapers issued from the Stamp-Office.

Sir Samuel Romilly would not enter upon the several questions which had been that night debated; but he would state as the reason of the vote which he intended to give, that the public had a right to information on the subject, since prosecutions, especially those in which the liberty of the press was involved, ought never to be matters of secrecy; and if the attorney-general had acted the meritorious part that from his speech might be concluded, why should he object to giving decisive evidence of it by the papers moved for. There was often heard in the speeches of ministers a disposition to talk loudly of their responsibility, and in so doing they were always cheered by their friends for the great magnanimity they displayed, while, perhaps the very next day they refused all information, and thus prevented inquiry, without which there could be no responsibility.

The question being at length impatiently called for, the house divided, for the motion 36, against it 119.

Intending to devote this chapter to the discussion of judicial topics in parliament, we proceed to notice a motion on March 7th, by Mr. M. A. Taylor, respecting the delays in appeal and chancery causes. The mover began with stating the great evils which arose from the delay of justice in these

causes, which was such, that suitors in the court of chancery were often unable during the course of their lives to bring their business to a termination. This he did not in the least impute to any negligence on the part of the noble lord who presided in that court, but merely to the great increase of business, which rendered it impossible for the same persons to go through with it. This fact he first exemplified in bankruptcies, of which the annual number in the time of Lord Talbot, not a century ago, was 106, whereas in 1809 it had been 1100, and in 1810 about 2,400. In the house of lords there was now an arrear. of more than 300 appeal causes. Various cases occurred in which an appeal to the lords, or a writ of error, was adopted merely for the purpose of delay, whereby persons possessed of the clearest right were kept out of their property for many years. After giving several examples of the grievances attending such delays, and anticipating an objection that might be raised to his motion. from the circumstance that the lords had just commenced an inquiry of a similar kind, whereas he had given notice of his intention so long ago as May last; he moved "That a committee be appointed to ascertain the number of appeals before the lords, and to report them to the house.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer admitted that there was a deficiency in the judicature alladed to, but thought that they should wait the result of the inquiry set on foot by the Lords.


Mr. Adam proposed, as amendment, that the debate should

[ocr errors]

be adjourned for at least a fortnight.

Sir Samuel Romilly gave his reasons for supporting the original motion. He attested, in the strongest terms, the great anxiety of the present Lord Chancellor to fulfil the duties of his office, but confirmed the fact of the grievances resulting from the unavoidable delay of justice. He thought inquiry was necessary for discovering a remedy, and that it was unworthy of the House of Commons to consider what was doing in another place.

The House at length divided, and the amended motion for adjournment being lost, the previous question was put upon the original motion, and carried against it.

It was not till May 30 that the select committee of inquiry in the House of Lords above alluded to made their report. It was presented by the Earl of Liverpool, and stated generally the great increase of appeals and writs of error then undecided before that House, amounting to 338, of which 42 were writs of error. It also noticed the vast increase of business in the courts of chancery; for which causes it was impossible that the chancellor could dispatch this great arrear, without some assistance being provided for him by parliament. The report then recommended that another judge should be appointed to assist his lordship in the court of chancery, and that his rank should be equal to that of the Master of the Rolls. It further recommended, that a period should be fixed in each session of parliament, for the purpose of limiting the time when appeals could be made to that house. With the

view of expediting judicial business, it recommended the allotting of three days in each week to the determining of appeals and writs, and that the house should on those days meet at ten o'clock in the morning, until such time as the arrears should be considerably reduced in number; after such reduction, to meet only two days in each week. Upon these suggestions in the report, four resolutions were frained, which were agreed to by the house nem. con.

After these proceedings in the house of lords, the subject was again brought before the house of commons on June the 5th, when Mr. Taylor having moved the order of the day for resuming the adjourned debate on this topic, renewed his motion for the appointment of a committee, Sir Samuel Romilly then rose, and observed that nothing had occurred to induce him to alter his opinion before expressed on the occasion. The report from the lords which had been communicated to that house appeared to him to contain nothing which should prevent the formation of the committee moved for by his honourable friend. The measure proposed of appointing another judge to assist the lord chancellor, was of too great importance to be carried into effect at that late period of the session, and besides was liable to some serious objections, which he stated. If the duties of the chancellor were too great for him to perform, it might be better to separate from his office those of speaker of the house of lords, or the decision of bankrupt cases, though there were objections to both these expedients. He thought upon the whole


that a temporary remedy would be best, and if a commission were appointed to assist the chancellor, he was persuaded all the arrears in the court might be disposed of in the course of a year.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer gave it as his opinion, that it would be best to wait till the bill should come down from the lords, and said he should vote against the motion.

After Mr. Ponsonby and Mr. Adam had spoken for the motion, and Mr. Wilson against it, Mr. Taylor, in a concluding speech, enforced the necessity of a complete investigation of the causes of the existing evils. A division then took place, on which there appeared for the motion 36, against it 36. The Speaker then gave his casting vote in its favour, and a committee of inquiry was nominated.

The severity and disgracefulness of the punishment by flogging in the British army had frequently been a subject of animadversion

as well in parliament as from the press; and though government had shewn itself very sore on the subject, and some writers had been prosecuted for the manner in which they had exposed this prac tice in their addresses to the public, yet an impression had been made which it was apparently thought unsafe to disregard. When, therefore, the mutiny bill was passing through the house of commous, on the 11th of March, Mr. Manners Sutton proposed an amendment to give a power to courts-martial to inflict the punishment of imprisonment in the place of corporal punishment, when they should judge proper. The clause was adopted with general concurrence; and this acquisition to the interests of humanity may fairly be numbered among the benefits resulting from public discussion by means of the press, however reluctant persons in power may be to listen to such

a monitor.



Distilleries, proposed Acts concerning-Further Relief granted to Por tugal.-Debates on the Subject in both Houses.- Eleemosynary Aid to the distressed Portuguese,Printers' Bill.-Debate concerning the Press in India.


THE House of Conimons, on the 8th of March, having gone into a committee on the acts respecting the distilleries of Great Britain, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who had some time be fore explained to the house the principles upon which he was desirous of placing the duties on spirits distilled from grain or sugar, introduced a measure which he hoped might be permanent, though it was his intention at present not to extend its operation heyond a period of two years. Its object was to produce such an equalization of the duties on spirits, whether distilled from malt or sugar, as that, when those articles were at fair and reasonable prices, it might be at the option of the distiller which material to employ. When the suspension of the distillery from corn took place, the duties on sugar used for spirits were arranged so as to be supposed equal to those of so much malt as would have yielded an equal quantity of spirits; but it was afterwards found, that from the quantity of wash calculated to yield 11 gallons of spirit, 12 were actually produced. He therefore proposed an increase of one halfpenny per gallon on the wash of sugar-spirits to effect the balance at first intended. Then, entering into a VOL. LIII.

minute calculation of the expenses of distilling a certain quantity of spirits from sugar, and from barley, at the present respective prices of those articles, he showed, that in order to put sugar-spirits and malt-spirits on a level, an additional duty must be laid on the latter. This would be no new tax on the consumers, as malt-spirits could still be afforded at the present price of sugar-spirits, and yet it would produce an increase of the revenue calculated at 380,0001. He then moved a resolution pro forma, "That the present duties on the distillation of spirits from wash do cease and determine, &c."

A debate followed, in which they who opposed the motion dwelt upon the policy of giving every support to the national agriculture and to the production of the necessaries of life; whilst on the other side the importance of attending to the commercial and colonial interests of the empire was suggested. The resolution was at length passed by 70 votes against 21.

On the 12th, the report of the committee on the distilleries was brought up, and occasioned a long and desultory conversation, from which it appeared that the landed interest had taken great alarm at the supposed competition between [D]

- the

the growers of corn and of sugar. The Chancellor of the Exchequer endeavoured to show that their apprehensions were unfounded. The principle of his proposed regulation was to make the duties such, that if the price of barley did not exceed 30s. per quarter, it must be the interest of the distiller to use grain, but, at that price, he might use grain or sugar at his option. He had been agreeably disappointed at the manner in which his measure had been opposed. Instead of arguing that barley was at 40 or 42s. and therefore sugar would be let in to a competition, the argument had been, that barley was only 26s. In this case, the distillery would afford it a market till its price should rise to 38s. The West-India gentlemen disapproved of the measure as insufficient for their relief, and yet voted for it; and the landed gentlemen voted against it, thoug' was to give barley an exclus. 3arket in the distilleries till its price rose to 38s. The resolutions were then read and agreed to.

On the order of the day for reading the distillery bill a second time, April 2d, the same objections were repeated to it, as injurious to the interests of agriculture, and the same arguments were used in refutation of them. Mr. Shaw, of Dublin, complained that there was no mention of Ireland in the title or preamble of the bill, yet there was a clause in the body of it continuing the prohibition of importing spirits from Ireland into England, a prohibition enacted in the last session, when the distillation of spirits from corn was permitted in Ireland, though prohi

bited in England. Now, the distillation from corn being proposed to be allowed in this country till barley should reach a certain price, the reason for prohibiting the importation from Ireland no longer existed, and consequently the spirit intercourse ought to be restored between the two countries on the principle of equivalent duties and drawbacks, as directed by the union. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in reply to this observation, said that it was his intention to limit the operation of this clause to four months, which would render it much less objectionable than it appeared to be. The house then divided, when the second reading was carried by 74 against 49.

A recommittal of the report on the Distillery Bill being moved for by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on April the 9th, the former objections to its principle were renewed, and Mr. W. Smith referred to the opinions of the corn distillers themselves, who considered it as a death-blow to their trade. He regarded the measure as a tax to a large amount on this country in favour of the West-Indies.

On the other side Mr. Hibbert observed, that upon the average of the last eleven years four millions annually had been paid for imported corn, and all the West-India proprietors asked was to be let into one fifth of this sum. On a division the recommittal passed by 66 against 31. The house then went into a committee on the clause for limiting the duration of the act to three months for Ire land; which was agreed to.

The bill was introduced into the House of Lords on May the 6th, when its principles were discussed


« TrướcTiếp tục »