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Commons Chamber
01 March 1814
Volume 27

House Of Commons

Tuesday, March 1, 1814.

In consequence of the great accumulation of private business, an unprecedented number of private Bills were brought in, and read a first time

Sir William Garrow

Mr. Lushington having moved, that the Speaker should issue his warrant to the clerk of the crown to make out a new writ for the election of a burgess for the borough of Eye, in the room of sir William Garrow, who, since his election, had accepted the office of Chief Justice of Chester;

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observed that the appointment which had occasioned the necessity for the motion just made by the hon. gentleman appeared to him to be so objectionable in its nature, that he should not consider himself as having properly discharged his parliamentary duty, unless he called the attention of the House for a few moments to the subject. It was not his intention to make any motion respecting it; he had not heard that such was the intention of any other hon. member. The present, therefore, was the only opportunity which he could ever have to make the observations that seemed to him to be so necessary. He understood that his Majesty's Attorney General, who had recently accepted the high judicial office described in the hon. gentleman's motion, had not resigned the office of Attorney General, and did not mean to resign it; but that it was his intention to hold the two offices together. To him (sir S. R.) it appeared that the two offices were wholly incompatible. To appoint a gentleman holding a lucrative office at the sole pleasure of the crown (and removable from that office the very moment that he might give dissatisfaction to the crown) to a high judicial situation, was in his opinion extremely inconsistent with that independence of the judicial character which it was so important to preserve inviolate. It could not be out of the knowledge or the recollection of most of the honourable persons who heard him, that early in his Majesty's reign, and on a very memorable occasion, his Majesty was pleased to state to parliament, that it appeared to him that the independence of the judges was essential to the impartial administration of justice, to the preservation of the liberty of the subject, and to the maintenance of the honour of the crown. He could not think that these sacred considerations were attended to in the appointment of a gentleman to a high judicial office, who, as he had before observed, held at the same time another office, very lucrative, in its nature, and from which he was removable at the pleasure of the crown at any moment at which the crown might think fit so to remove him. Besides, it was evident that to place as judge over the subject an attorney General, whose duty it was to assert and maintain the rights of the crown against the subject, was not the way to insure the equal administration of justice. He trusted, that in making these observations, he should not be understood as intending any thing personal or any thing disrespectful to the learned gentleman in question, who had merely done as others had done before him. An individual who stood in the high situation of his Majesty's Attorney General, had a right to expect, and had a right that the public should expect for him, that when any high judicial situation became vacant, he should be vested with the judicial functions. But then he ought no longer to retain his office of Attorney General. He knew that there was a particular Attorney General for Chester as well as an Attorney General for the King; and that in many, perhaps in most, cases, prosecutions might be conducted in the court of Chester by the former, without any previous interference by the latter. But this was not always the case. For instance, the recent criminal prosecutions for riot in that part of the country were directed by his Majesty's Attorney General, who assisted at the consultations of his Majesty's government, the object of which was to ascertain the best mode of quelling the disturbances. Should such occurrences again take place under the existing circumstances, persons would be tried by an individual who had advised and directed their prosecution! It was undoubtedly true, that these two offices had at former periods been held by the same individual. Lord Kenyon, lord Alvanley, and other persons whose memory he highly respected, had so held them. But to him did the appointment seem so inconsistent with pure notions of the independence of the judicial character, which ought not to be exposed to be affected either by the hope of royal favour or by the fear of royal resentment, that no example, even had sir Matthew Hale, or lord Somers himself, afforded it, could in his opinion sanction such a measure. It was a great misfortune, that the instances to which he had just alluded, in which the two offices were held by one individual, had been allowed to pass without comment. Impossible as it was to justify the appointment, it was essential that such silence should not again be observed and particularly in that House; one of the peculiar duties of which was, vigilantly to watch over the impartial ad- ministration of justice. What would be said by the country, if one of the twelve judges was to accept an office inconsistent with the proper discharge of his judicial functions, and from which he was removable at his Majesty's pleasure? What then could be said of an individual who held the two incompatible offices of Judge and Attorney General; the emoluments of the latter office being four or five times greater than those of the former, and from which latter office he was removable at the pleasure of the crown. Could such a person be considered as an independent judge? The House must be aware, that the office of chief justice of Chester was a very high one, being next in importance to those of the twelve judges; the chief justice of Chester having always to try an extraordinary number both of criminal and of civil cases. He had felt it to be his duty to throw out these observations; but be repeated, that it was not his intention to make any motion on the subject.

The motion was then agreed to.

On the motion of Mr. Ponsonby, a new writ was ordered to be issued for the county of Kildare, in the room of lord Henry Fitzgerald, who had accepted the office of steward of East Hundred.

The Prince Regent Desires The House To Adjourn

On the motion of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Committee of Supply was postponed from tomorrow until Wednesday the 23d instant.

On the Chancellor of the Exchequer's making a similar motion, with respect to the Committee of Ways and Means;

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expressed his surprise that the right hon. gentleman had abstained from assigning any reasons for these propositions.

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said, the reason, which induced him to wish for the postponement of the committees was that, in consequence of the existing state of public affairs, he had a communication to make to the House from his royal highness the Prince Regent, which communication he would make; namely. "That, it being the pleasure of his royal highness the Prince Regent, in the name and on the behalf of his Majesty, that the parliament should be adjourned until Monday the 21st day of this instant March, his Royal Highness desires that this House, will adjourn itself until Monday the 21st day of this instant March." In consonance to this intimation, he would move, that at its rising the House should adjourn to Monday the 2lst instant.

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observed, that although every one had anticipated the communication which had just been announced by the right hon. gentleman, yet it was certainly surprising that the right hon. gentleman had not preferred making the communication the preliminary step to the postponement of the committees, instead of making the postponement of the committees the preliminary step to the communication. If he were not aware, that such was the usual style of a communication of that nature—namely, that it was his Majesty's 'pleasure' the House should adjourn, he confessed that he should think it rather an ungracious mode of expression. It was certainly, however, justified by the precedents on the Journals. He did not rise by any means to oppose the adjournment; to which, on the contrary, he should assent with the same readiness as he did to the last proposition of that nature. Nor would he express either disappointment, or hope, or fear, with respect to the events that had taken place since their last meeting, or that might be taking place at that moment. It was his wish cautiously to abstain from any observations on the subject; reserving himself until the period when that information should be afforded, to which he, the House, and the country, looked with confident expectation. But although he had no hesitation in voting for an adjournment, and for an acquiescence in the pleasure of his royal highness the Prince Regent, yet he owned that he entertained some apprehensions lest the present proceedings should be drawn into a pernicious precedent. He was not without his fears, that when the circumstances of the times should not be well recollected, posterity might accuse those who consented to the present proposition, of an abandonment of their duty to their constituents.—He was aware, that in 1799 an adjournment of a much longer duration even than that, the termination of which had this day assembled the House, had been proposed, and without difficulty acceded to; but that was at a period of the session at which the public business did not press so heavily as it had pressed during the late recess, and would necessarily press during that which was about to take place. Therefore, although he did not regret having voted for the last ad- journment —although he did not repent having placed the confidence which he on that occasion placed the confidence which he on that occasion placed in his Majesty's government—although he was not disposed to cavil at the adjournment now proposed, yet he did wish to guard the proceeding from being converted into a dangerous precedent. He wished to have some record on the Journals of the House, of the grounds on which parliament had been induced to take such a step. In the words which he had committed to paper for this purpose, he hoped he had so entirely abstained from expressing an opinion, or any thing like an opinion, or an anticipation, with respect to public affairs, that he really entertained a confident expectation that the right hon. gentleman opposite would not object to their adoption. He would, therefore, move as an Amendment to the right hon. gentleman's motion, to leave out all the words after the word 'that,' for the purpose of inserting the following:— "An humble Address be presented to his royal highness the Prince Regent, to express to his Royal Highness the grateful acknowledgments of this House for the communication which his Royal Highness has been pleased to send to this House, in the name and on the behalf of his Majesty. "To assure his Royal Highness, that notwithstanding the recent adjournment of this House, at a season when so many matters of the gravest importance pressed themselves upon its consideration, and for a period of very unusual length, this House will cheerfully comply with the pleasure of his Royal Highness, signified by the Chancellor of the exchequer, and adjourn itself to the 21st day of March instant; trusting that the unexampled state of public affairs upon the continent of Europe will afford a justification of their conduct to their constituents and to posterity, prevent its being drawn into pernicious precedent, and preclude the possibility of its being attributed to inattention to the great concerns which call for the increased vigilance and activity of the House of Commons, or any dereliction of its sacred duties."

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, in reply, defended, on the ground of precedents, the propriety of his having moved for the postponement of the committees before the made the communication to the House from the Prince Regent; but the right hon. gentleman spoke in a tone of voice which was at times so nearly inaudible, that we were utterly unable to follow him, although he seemed to be arguing that the communication must, of necessity, be the last step; as respect to the crown would of course induce the House, without entering into any further business, to adjourn immediately on the intimation of the royal pleasure. He proceeded to say, that he could by no means consent to the amendment proposed by the hon. gentleman. The House would observe, that by the present mode of proceeding the suspension of the functions of parliament was left in the hands of parliament itself. If, however, by adopting such a proposition as that made by the hon. gentleman, any jealousy were evinced by the House, then, under similar circumstances, the crown would be put to the necessity of preferring the more inconvenient form of prorogation, to that of simply recommending an adjournment. The present was a proceeding sanctioned by the practice of all former periods. In very few instances had such a recommendation from the crown (the House resting on the responsibility of ministers) been even made the subject of debate. In one case, during the last war, the question of adjournment in similar circumstances had unquestionably been brought to a division—but what were the numbers? On the one side the tellers, on the other the whole body of the House! With respect to the last subject alluded to by the hon. gentleman, he would only say, that when the proper time should arrive, his Majesty's government would be ready to give every explanation that might be necessary to elucidate the discussion which the hon. gentleman anticipated.

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, when he considered the advanced period of the session, and the length of the adjournment which had already taken place, felt himself compelled to resist the motion of the right hon. gentleman. He would ask the House, whether, if they could have foreseen, when they agreed to the late adjournment, that at the end of two months a still farther delay would be asked, they would have consented so readily as they then did? He wished to throw no embarrassment in the way of his Majesty's ministers; but he really could not see in what way the sitting of the House would embarrass them. The quantity of papers exhibited that day in the House was a strong reason for opposing the adjournment.

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said, that no man could feel more forcibly than himself the inconvenience to the public with which an adjournment would at present be attended; but every man must also feel the very important and delicate situation of affairs at this crisis; and when his Majesty's ministers, on their responsibility, came forward to the House and asked an adjournment for three weeks, he felt himself unable to resist the application. He could not conjecture what the affairs were which rendered such a measure necessary; but when the time arrived, at which a disclosure should be made to the House, he would then be prepared to enter on the consideration of them. He should feel a difficulty, if his hon. friend pressed his amendment, of supporting it; for he knew no instance in which the House, when it agreed to any measure like the present on the recommendation of the crown, had entered a reason for that compliance on their Journals; as the House had always considered the recommendation as a sufficient reason for its compliance. To act otherwise, would be to bring on a premature discussion of that which it was the object of the measure to avoid bringing under discussion. He would therefore confide entirely, in this instance, to ministers, on that constitutional responsibility which attached to their situations, and which at no time could they be more imperiously called on to exercise.

The motion for adjournment was then put and agreed to.