House Of Commons
Tuesday, 19th July, 1870.
MINUTES.]—SUPPLY— considered in Committee— Resolutions [July 18] reported.
PUBLIC BILLS— Resolution in Committee— Ordered— First Reading—Canada Defences (Guarantee of Loan)* .
Ordered—Militia Pay* .
Ordered — First Reading — Local Government Supplemental (No. 4) * ; Epping Forest* ; Foreign Enlistment * ; Greenwich Hospital* .
Second Reading — Ecclesiastical Dilapidations (No. 2) * .
Committee— Report—Sewage Utilization Supplemental* ; Exchequer Bonds (£1,300,000)* .
Considered as amended—Elementary Education , debate adjourned; Annuity Tax Abolition (Edinburgh and Montrose, &c.) Act (1860) Amendment * .
Third Reading—Vestries (Isle of Man)* : Drainage and Improvement of Lands (Ireland) Supplemental (No. 2) * ; Pier and Harbour Order Confirmation (No. 3)* ; Ecclesiastical Patronage Transfer* , and passed.
The House met at Two of the clock.
Ireland—Banks Of The Irish Coast
said, he wished to ask the Secretary to the Board of Trade, If he has received information from the Ballast Board that important changes have taken place in the banks of the Irish Coast between Tuskar and Dublin; and, if so, whether the attention of the Admiralty has been called to the same, with the view of having them promptly re-surveyed?
said, in reply, that the Commissioners of the Irish Lights had informed the Board of Trade that the commander of their vessel employed in the lighthouse service had reported some alterations of the banks between Tuskar and Dublin from those laid down in the Admiralty charts. The subject was now under the consideration of the Admiralty, and the Irish Lights Commissioners had been requested to give more detailed information as to the changes.
said, he would beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, Whether, inasmuch as Christmas Day this year falls on Sunday, the Government will bring in a short Bill to authorize the closing of the Bank of England and other Banks on the day before or the day after Christmas Day, and thus insure a holiday to the numerous persons employed in such establishments?
, in reply, said, he regretted very much that clerks and others would lose the holiday to which they were accustomed; but he did not think it would be consistent with the public convenience that he should bring in a Bill for the purpose referred to at that period of the Session.
Land Transfer Act—Question
said, he would beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, Whether Her Majesty's Government contemplate carrying out the recommendation contained in the Report of the Royal Commissioners appointed to inquire into the operation of the Land Transfer Act, and the present condition of the registry of deeds for the county of Middlesex, in favour of the discontinuance of that office; whether any steps have been taken by the registrars since the publication of that Report to adopt one uniform system of fees, and to reduce the fees charged to a scale in accordance with the law; whether the registrarship vacant since 1867, and in the gift of the Chief Justice of the Queen's Bench still remains vacant, and whether there is any intention of filling up that office; and, under what authority the emoluments of the vacant registrarship have been divided between the two surviving registrars, and if he can inform the House what additional emoluments have been in consequence received by the holders of these offices, and what was the net sum received by them in 1869?
said, in reply, that the Land Transfer Bill, now in the House of Lords, provided for the closing of the Middlesex Registry. No alteration in the fees taken in the Middlesex Registry had been made since the publication of the Land Transfer Report. The vacant registrarship had not been filled up by the Chief Justice, and there was no intention of filling it up; the Chief Justice understanding that it was the wish of the Government and the House of Commons that the office should remain vacant. The effect of this vacancy had not as yet been of any public benefit. The fees were of fixed amount, and were divisible among the registrars, and a vacancy only left a larger Bum divisible among them. It appeared that the Act of Queen Anne, constituting the Registry, gives the fees to the registrars; who accordingly divide the total amount among themselves, subject to the deduction of one-fourth, which under 23 & 24 Vict. c. 21, was paid to the Queen's Remembrancer, to be by him accounted for to the Treasury. In 1869 additional emoluments to the amount of £640 were received by each registrar and the Treasury on behalf of the Queen's Remembrancer, and the nett sum received by each registrar and the Treasury was £2,561 14s. 3d.
Her Majesty's Answer To Address
reported Her Majesty's Answer to Address [8th July] as follows:—
I have received your Address, praying that I will give directions that no Public Offices be erected on that portion of the Thames Embankment, which is reserved to the Crown, and which has been reclaimed from the River at the cost of the Ratepayers of the Metropolis.
As no Public Office can be erected on the ground in question without a Vote of Parliament, the Souse has in its own hands the means of giving effect to the prayer of the Address, and My Government will not ask for such a Vote, unless they should have reason to suppose that it is likely to meet with the approval of the Souse.
If the Address were intended to exclude all employment of the land for profit by building, it would be necessary to observe, that the properly was granted by a recent Act in exchange for valuable interests; that such a limitation of its use would appear not to have been within the contemplation of the Statute, and that if fit to be effected, it ought to be imposed by the authority of the Legislature, in a Bill for the purpose, which would give opportunity for the examination of the whole case in its present and prospective bearings.
Should such a Bill be proposed for consideration on its merits, I will give directions that its free discussion shall not be hindered by any formal difficulty which it may be in the power of the Crown to remove, nor will any step be taken during the current year to appropriate the land, or interfere with the final decision of the question.
Her Majesty's Answer To Address
reported Her Majesty's Answer to Address [8th July] as follows:—
I have received your Address praying that a Commission may be issued to inquire into the existing state of the Law relating to Friendly Societies.
And I have given directions that a Commission shall issue for the purpose which you have requested.
Elementary Education (Re-Committed) Bill—Bill 218
( Mr. W. E. Forster, Mr. Secretary Bruce.)
Bill, as amended, considered.
rose to move a now clause. He explained that there were many parishes large enough to maintain one good school but not to maintain two; that in most of them the Church of England school was the largest and best; that conditions imposed by deed upon the managers drove the minority of Dissenters to set up a rival school; and that it was desirable to enable the managers to got rid of these conditions, and so concentrate the pecuniary resources of the place, economize teaching power, and improve the character of the education for all the children. With this object he moved to insert, after Clause 22, the following clause:—
(Alteration of regulations affecting managers, &c.)
"The managers of a public elementary school may, with the sanction of the Education Department, and with the consent of all parties whose consent may be required by the Education Department, alter any regulations to which the management of such school may be subject, attaching any special qualification or disqualification to the office of a manager or teacher of such school, or giving any person not being a teacher any special superintendence or authority in the management or teaching of such school."
Clause brought up, and read the first time.
said, he would like to know what the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President thought of this clause? To him it seemed to be altogether unnecessary, regard being had to the provision contained in the 22nd clause.
said, he could not say that the clause was necessary; but neither did he think it would be injurious. It seemed to him that the 22nd clause, taken in connection with the 24th clause, was sufficient for the purpose. At the same time, he saw no objection to the clause.
Motion made, and Question put, "That the said Clause be now read a second time."
The House divided:—Ayes 86; Noes 53: Majority 33.
Clause read a second time, and added.
rose to move the following clause:—
(Exemption from rating.)
He was anxious to make one more appeal to the right hon. Gentleman the vice President of the Council to mitigate the stringency of the power of rating by the adoption of the principle of this clause. If his right hon. Friend would give this subject his full consideration, he would see the clause would not injure the object of the Bill, but would render it more efficient. If it were rejected, the effect would be that a vast number of the voluntary schools now in the kingdom would be extinguished. He would put a case—which he knew to be no imaginary one—of a parish which was divided into three parts, and each of the outlying districts had provided for itself a new church and school. These schools fulfilled all the requirements of this Bill; they were for the education of the children in their district, and were in no sense private schools. What he proposed was that these outlying districts, being thus provided with schools in the full moaning of the Act, should not be called upon to pay the rate necessary for the central part of the parish, in which case they would be called upon to pay the school rates twice over. In that case he was afraid the parties who had hitherto supported the schools in the separated ecclesiastical districts would withdraw their subscriptions and leave those schools to be supported by the rates, when they would have loss to pay than they now did in subscriptions."In any case where a Public Elementary School exists at the time of the passing of this Act, in any duly constituted ecclesiastical district, and where such school fulfils all the conditions required by this Act as to management and efficiency, and is sufficient for the wants of the district, and where such school has been built and maintained, and continues to be maintained by private and voluntary funds (except the amount derived from the children's pence, and the Government Grant in aid), the person or persons who thus maintain such school in an efficient state by such voluntary funds, shall not be liable to be rated in respect of any land or property within such district to the support of any other school in any other part of the same parish."
Clause brought up, and read the first time.
said, he hoped the hon. Baronet would excuse him if he declined to enter at any length again into the argument why he could not accept this clause. It had been debated over and over again, and they could not renew the argument on its present stage. The question of dividing parishes had been debated, and it had been decided that in this matter of education it was impossible to depart from the ordinary definition of parishes. The question of exempting the subscribers to voluntary schools had been discussed on the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir Charles Adderley), and it was found that there was an almost unanimous feeling of the Committee against it. According to the hon. Baronet's proposal a man might escape the rate altogether by giving a mere nominal subscription to a voluntary school.
said, if these subscribers to the voluntary schools were to be exempted from the rates, then the schools would practically become rate-aided schools.
said, that it was unjust to make the subscribers to a voluntary school liable for the rates as well. It had been said that private charity did not exempt a man from the poor rates; but he might remark that poor rates had a tendency to dry up the sources of private charity; and he was satisfied that the tendency of this Bill, as it stood, was to convert all the voluntary schools of the country into rate-aided schools.
said, he thought the operation of this Bill would be the reverse of drying up the streams of private charity. He believed that the power of control which the managers of voluntary schools had over them would always induce wealthy and benevolent persons to support them.
said, he hoped his hon. Friend would press this clause to a Division. He believed that if some such provision as the clause pointed to were not made, the voluntary schools in the kingdom would soon be dried up. As to the statement that this clause would allow those who gave a mere nominal subscription to be exempted from the rates, he did not think that would follow from the clause, which was drawn up in a very stringent manner.
said, that if the district was already provided with the means of education there would be no need for a rate.
explained that his clause referred to a divided parish, where one division had done its duty and the other had not; and the object of his clause was that the division which had done its duty should not be called on to contribute for the division which had not.
supported the clause. Suppose the not very uncommon case of a parish containing two outlying townships, with an agricultural district between the two towns, which had little in common between them except the accident of being included in the same parish—in such a case they ought to be treated separately.
said, he hoped the Government would not consent to the clause. They had heard much of the benevolence and charity of the subscribers to the voluntary schools, and he, for one, was willing to believe in that charity; but it would appear, from the arguments of hon. Gentlemen opposite, that that charity was only a pretext to escape the rates.
said, the hon. Gentleman did not understand the clause. It had nothing to do with individual subscriptions. What the clause provided for was this—that where a district was, or was declared by the School Commissioners to be, sufficiently provided with education, that district should not be called to help another district that had not done its duty, simply from the fact that both were included in one parish.
reminded the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council that this was the very difficulty that used to occur in church, rates. It was the constant complaint of an outlying district that when they had provided a church for themselves they were still called upon to provide church rates for the mother church. The same injustice, substituting a school rate for a church rate, was about to be perpetrated under this Bill.
Motion made, and Question put, "That the said Clause be now read a second time."
The House divided:—Ayes 70; Noes 120: Majority 50.
moved, in Clause 8, page 4, at end of clause, add—
The effect would be that if there was one school only in a district it would not come under the operation of the Bill."Provided there shall be in every district one such school which is conducted in accordance with the regulations contained in the 1st and 2nd subsections of Clause 7 of this Act."
In page 4, line 5, after the word "district," to insert the words "Provided there shall be in every district one such school which is conducted in accordance with the regulations contained in the 1st and 2nd sub-sections of Clause 7 of this Act."—(Mr. M'Arthur.)
observed, that the proposal had already been fully discussed. No school would receive any Parliamentary Grant which did not accept the conditions of the 7th clause in reference to the Conscience Clause. The penalty on such a school would be that it would receive no public money, and they might rely on it that there would be very few such schools.
said, there might be but one school in the parish, and that without a Conscience Clause, and he asked where was the justice of requiring the children of Dissenters to attend that school or no school at all? He wanted some security that there should be a public elementary school in every district, with a Conscience Clause.
asked if a child could be compelled to attend a non-efficient school?
replied, that no child could be compelled to attend any but a public elementary school. The responsibility would be on the Education Department to refuse aid to an unsuitable school.
said, he hoped the Government would not accept the Amendment. By doing so they would be practically ignoring 5,000 or 6,000 schools now giving a sound education to the poor children of the country, and which had been so long engaged in that excellent work.
Question put, "That those words be there inserted."
The House divided:—Ayes 66; Noes 168: Majority 102.
moved, in Clause 11, line 8, after "board," insert "or with respect to any borough by the Council." As the clause now stood the parties to put the Act in motion by applying to the Education Department were the ratepayers, who were to select the school Board. He proposed that it should be left as it stood originally in the Bill, and that in any borough the Town Council should have power to put the Act in motion.
said, he was quite willing to accept the Amendment as an alternative. It was very desirable to leave the initiative in the hands of the parishioners, and it might be beneficial to give the initiative also to the Town Council in boroughs.
Amendment, as amended, agreed to.
moved, in Clause 14, page 6, line 4, after "regulations," insert—
The great object of the Bill, as he understood it, was to give unsectarian education in rate-aided schools; but it would be impossible to give that education if those who were in Holy Orders or the ministers of various denominations were allowed to take their rank as teachers in these schools."Provided always, That no person whatever except the school teacher shall give religious instruction in the school, and that no clergyman or minister of any religious denomination or member of any religious order shall be eligible to be appointed a school teacher."
In page 6, line 4, after the word "regulations," to insert the words "Provided always, That no person whatever except the school teacher shall give religious instruction in the school, and that no clergyman or minister of any religious denomination or member of any religious order shall be eligible to be appointed a school teacher."—(Mr. M'Arthur.)
Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
said, he hoped the hon. Gentleman would not press his Amendment. It related to a point which the Department would have to consider; but if this Amendment were inserted in an Act of Parliament, it might lead to a great deal of inconvenience. The first part of the Amendment must be left to the discretion of the school Boards; and as to the second part it was very difficult indeed to define what was a minister, for Wesleyan local preachers and members of the Society of Friends, who followed secular occupations and also addressed their co-religionists on the Sabbath, might be said to be ministers, and yet could hardly be considered unfit to act as school teachers.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
moved, in Clause 16, line 29, to leave out—
in line 32, inclusive. This would be a final clause, and if the principle contained in these words were admitted into our legislation we should sap the foundations of every Board and Council acting in the nature of a corporate body. Without these words the clause gave absolute power to the Education Department to decide on any question as to whether a school Board had or had not complied with its regulations. If these words remained the school Board would be at the absolute mercy of any manager, teacher, or single member of the Board who chose of his own free will to violate the rules laid down by the Education Department. If the rules were broken by any such person, even against the wishes of the school Board, that Board would be held to be in default, and could be ousted from their place."And every act or omission of any member of the school Board, or manager appointed by them, or any person under the control of the Board, shall be deemed to be permitted by the Board,"
Amendment proposed, in page 6, line 29, to leave out from the word "and" to the word "board," in line 32, both inclusive.—( Mr. Cawley.)
Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill."
said, he was informed that the retention of the words referred to was absolutely necessary in order to work the clause. The school Board must be held to be responsible for the acts of their servants; if not, it would be very easy for any school Board to defeat the clause altogether.
said, the clause as it stood went further than merely to make the school Board responsible for the acts of its servants. It made the whole Board responsible for the acts of every single member.
said, this curious state of things might result if the clause remained in its present shape: if a manager did anything in absolute contradiction of the orders and will of the school Board, that Board would be held to have sanctioned and approved it. How, then, could a school Board dismiss a manager for doing that which an Act of Parliament declared they had sanctioned?
said, no advantage would be taken of a school Board in a case like that.
said, there was no option in the matter. The word "shall" made the clause imperative, and not optional.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
moved, in Clause 20, page 8, lines 4 and 5, to leave out "in the month of November." As the clause stood no proceedings could be taken under the Act to acquire land compulsorily, except in the month of November. The adoption of his Amendment would enable the preliminary steps to be taken in such a case at any time.
said, he would accept the Amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
moved, in Clause 22, page 11, to leave out lines 13, 14, and 15. The objection to the clause was that as it stood it was in the power of the managers of a school to transfer the school to the school Board without the sanction of the trustees in whom the school might be vested. In the great majority of cases the school managers had merely been created by the Revised Code for the purposes of the annual grant, and it was not reasonable to give them the power of overriding the trustees.
Amendment proposed, in page 11, line 13, to leave out from the word "The" to the word "Section," in line 15, both inclusive.—( Mr. Cawley.)
Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill."
said, it would be difficult to work the clause without the retention of the words which were proposed to be left out. He would, however, endeavour to meet the views of the hon. Gentleman in another way by inserting the words—"after the expiration of six months."
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment, as amended, agreed, to.
moved to leave out all the words from line 29 to line 34 inclusive, on the ground that they gave to the managers of a voluntary school—whether the legal interest in the school-house or endowment was vested in them or in some person as trustee for them or the school—absolute power to convey to the school Board all such interest in the school-house or endowment as was vested in them or in the trustee. He greatly objected to giving such a power to an undefined body of managers, who might be here to-day and away to-morrow.
Amendment proposed, in page 11, line 29, to leave out from the word "when" to the word "arrangement," in line 34, both inclusive.—( Mr. Cawley.)
said, he regretted he could not agree to the proposal of the hon. Member. If the words were omitted, great obstacles might be thrown in the way of the transfer of the schools; and for all practical purposes he believed that sufficient safeguards had been provided, so as to obviate the evil against which it was sought to guard.
said, the regulations of the Revised Code restricted the choice of managers to a very narrow area, and it was not therefore advisable to give them so much power.
said, the section they were discussing merely supplied the machinery.
said, that in settling the previous clauses, they had conceded the point between his hon. Friend and the Government.
Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.
moved, in Clause 23, line 4, after "same," to insert—"and to pay fees for teaching blind children to read in such schools," the object being the admission of blind children to schools for a special kind of instruction, and the application of a portion of the rates for that purpose. The practice was adopted in Scotland, where the usual payment was £5 a year, and the blind children had, it was found, been much benefited morally by mixing with other children of their own ago who were not similarly afflicted.
Amendment proposed, in page 12, line 4, after the word "same," to insert the words "and to pay fees for teaching blind children to read in such schools."—( Mr. M'Laren.)
Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
supported the Motion, and was anxious to bear his testimony in favour of it. He would suggest that, if possible, the same thing should be done for the deaf and dumb. It had, indeed, been stated that deaf and dumb children could not be taught to read in these schools. But there were signs which might be used by teachers, not themselves specially qualified, as teachers of the deaf and dumb.
advised his hon. Friend (Mr. M'Laren) for the sake of his own clients not to press the Motion. The Bill provided elementary education for all children, which would include the blind and the deaf and dumb. There might be cases where it would be beneficial to the blind to mingle with other children, but there might be cases where it would be disadvantageous; for, if there happened to be a large number of blind children, it would be better to send them to a separate school. If the words were inserted, instead of widening, they would narrow the application of other parts of the Bill, and thus do injury to the interests of the very persons it was the object of his hon. Friend to serve. He trusted, therefore, the Amendment would not be passed.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
moved the insertion of words in Clause 26, which would give "any prison authority in England and Wales" the same power as the clause gave the school Boards of establishing, with the consent of the Education Department, certified industrial schools. In his own county the magistrates found it impossible to carry out the Industrial Schools Acts, because they had not the power of founding schools.
Amendment proposed, in page 12, line 22, after the word "board," to insert the words "or any prison authority in England or Wales."—( Mr. John Talbot.)
Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
deprecated dealing with any defects in the Industrial Schools Acts, by means of altering a section of the Bill then before the House, especially as those Acts would be taken into consideration by the Government generally, and especially by his right hon. Friend (Mr. Bruce).
said, it would be very satisfactory if the Home Secretary would promise to do something to remedy what had been the great defects of these Acts — namely, that they did not give the power of founding schools.
said, the Industrial Schools Acts depended for their success on the voluntary machinery which was put in operation. The question was, however, one well worthy of consideration.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
moved, in Clause 27, page 12, line 35, leave out all after "Act," and insert—
In page 12, line 35, to leave out all the words from the word "Act," to the end of the Clause, in order to insert the words,—
"1. In boroughs of one hundred thousand inhabitants and upwards by the council, provided that not less than one-third of the number to be elected shall be elected from persons who, at the time of the election, are not members of such council; "2. In all other boroughs by persons whose names are on the burgess roll of such borough for the time being in force; "3. And in a parish not situate in the Metropolis by the ratepayers; "4. Provided that the School Boards in the Metropolis shall be elected by the parishioners of the parishes therein in manner provided by this Act,"—(Mr. Dixon,)
Question proposed, "That the words 'in a borough' stand part of the Bill."
trusted the Government would yet retrace their steps upon this point while there was still time, and withdraw a concession which might be injurious and possibly fatal to the working of the Bill.
said, he had no wish to check discussion on this subject; but he would remind the House that it had already been very considerably debated. He admitted that this was one of the most important questions which had come under their notice, and one that was very difficult to deal with. He said that the Government had taken the stop they had been induced to take with very great reluctance. They had full confidence in the integrity and ability of the Town Councils; but the conviction had been forced upon them that in framing an Education Bill they ought to stick either to one principle or the other, and not have two conflicting ones. As the Bill had been originally framed, the principle of indirect representation ran all through it; but latterly the principle of direct representation had been granted in the case of the metropolis, as well as in the rural districts, and that once admitted Government did not see how one ride was to be laid down for London, and another for the large towns in the country. The ratepayers of the latter would in that case naturally complain. Besides, there were large towns where there was no Town Council; and the principle of direct representation would also have to be admitted there. He held that it would have been almost impossible to work the Bill according to the principle of indirect election, and, therefore, the Government had adopted the course they had taken.
agreed that it would be impossible to draw the line at 100,000 inhabitants. He recommended the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Dixon) to withdraw his Amendment, in order that the issue might be taken on the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council.
acceded to the suggestion of the hon. Member for Sheffield.
said, he was very much surprised to hear objections to popular election proceed from the Liberal ranks. He felt sure that election by the ratepayers would give great satisfaction, not, perhaps, to a few members of Town Councils, but to the mass of the population.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
moved, in line 36, to leave out "council," and insert "persons whose names are on the burgess roll of such borough for the time being in force."
Amendment proposed, in page 12, line 36, to leave out the word "council," in order to insert the words "persons whose names are on the burgess roll of such borough for the time being in force,"—( Mr. William Edward Forster,)—instead thereof.
moved the rejection of the Amendment.
said, he was satisfied that no greater mistake could be committed than that of leaving the school Boards to be elected by the popular vote. He contended that the best men would shrink from becoming candidates for a seat at such Boards, owing to the turmoil, abuse, and trouble they would have to endure during the election.
held that the ratepayers were the persons in whom the power of choosing the school Boards should be vested. He hoped that the Government would persevere with their proposal.
pointed out that the persons chosen by the Town Councils, as managers of charities for instance, were, as a class, superior to those who were chosen by direct popular suffrage, such as the Boards of Guardians. Gentlemen who would be likely to form the best school Boards would not go to the expense of an election contest.
remarked, that this expense would fall on the education rates, and it would be very much increased indeed by the introduction of the Ballot. He hoped the Amendment would not be carried.
Question put, "That the word 'council' stand part of the Bill."
The House divided:—Ayes 57; Noes 273: Majority 216.
Question, "That the words 'persons whose names are on the burgess roll of such borough for the time being in force' be inserted instead thereof," put, and agreed to.
moved, in Clause 36, page 16, sub-section 8, line 42, leave out all after "and," and insert "the chairman of the school Board from among their own number." The best men would be deterred from joining the Board if the chairman were to be nominated by the Department.
said, he would accept the Amendment. The Education Department would be very glad to be relieved from the responsibility of finding a chairman; and the only idea on which they had proceeded was, that as it was necessary to get to work as soon as possible it would be an advantage that the first chairman should be elected by them. Nothing could be more inconvenient than that the London school Board should commence its operations with any feeling of antagonism towards the Education Department, and, therefore, he at once agreed to the suggestion of his hon. Friend, particularly as he understood that the Amendment was approved of by other metropolitan Members. He thought, however, that the school Board should be allowed discretion as to the source from which its chairman should be selected, and he, therefore, hoped the hon. Member would not press the words "from among their own number" in the latter part of the Amendment.
Amendment, as amended, agreed to.
moved, in page 17, line 3, at end of paragraph 8, add—
"And any subsequent chairman who may afterwards be elected by the Board, may be elected either from the members of the Board or not, and any chairman who is not an elected member of the Board, shall by virtue of his office be a member of the Board, as if he had been so elected."
Amendment agreed to.
moved, in Clause 39, line 25, after "subsequently," add—
"Where a union of districts is proposed the Education Department shall consider whether any public school accommodation is required for the area proposed as the united district instead of for each of the districts constituting such area, and their decision as to the public school accommodation and the notice of such decision shall accordingly refer to such area and not separately to each of the constituent districts."
Amendment agreed to.
moved, in Clause 88, page 34, line 3, at end of clause add—
The University was obliged to be brought in separately, or otherwise it would not be rated; and, if rated, it ought to have a share in the representation."If a school Board is formed in the borough of Oxford, one-third of the school Board shall be elected by the University of Oxford, or the Colleges and Halls therein, in such manner as may be directed by the Education Department by an order made under the power contained in the Second Schedule to this Act."
said, he was surprised at the Amendment being brought forward without due Notice. He did not know whether his right hon. Colleague in the representation of Oxford assented to the Amendment; but, for his part, he could not give his assent to it, as it would overthrow existing arrangements between the University and the city of Oxford, under which the whole question of rating and expenditure was amicably and satisfactorily settled between the University and city of Oxford. He could not see why the Education Board should have the entire determination of the matter.
said, he thought, as the University was to contribute to the rate, it was only just that it should have its share of representation upon the school Board.
stated that the Amendment would place Oxford in precisely the same position as the other towns in the kingdom.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
moved, Clause 92, at end add—
He held it to be of primary importance that religious instruction should be given in all schools. Religious instruction formed an essential part of education, and no education could be considered complete without religion, and Parliament ought not to sanction education which was not complete. The principle of religious instruction had already received the sanction of the great body of the people."Provided also, That no school in which the Holy Scriptures are not daily used shall be entitled to receive any Parliamentary Grant."
In page 35, at the end of Clause 92, to add the words "Provided also. That no school in which the Holy Scriptures are not daily used shall be entitled to receive any Parliamentary grant."—(Lord Augustus Hervey.)
begged to remind the noble Lord that this question had been already discussed and decided, and the general principle that religious might be combined with secular education, but that their union should not be compelled, had been approved on both sides of the House.
said, he entirely agreed in the doctrine of his noble Friend; and if he carried the question to a Division, he (Sir John Pakington) should vote with him. From the beginning to the end of the Bill there was not a word said on the subject of religion, except as to the formularies to be taught. He was of opinion that if they did not provide for the teaching and reading of the Holy Scriptures, it would be a great blot on the Bill.
said, that if this Amendment were carried, it would interfere with rate-created schools and voluntary schools.
The hon. Member for Boston (Mr. Collins) is, I admit, always anxious to consult what may seem at the moment to be the convenience of the House, whether by counting out the House, or after any other fashion, and, at the present, he seems to think that it would be inconvenient to the House to consider the subject involved in the Motion which has been brought before us by the noble Lord the Member for Suffolk (Lord Augustus Hervey); but I differ from the hon. Member. I agree with the right hon. Baronet the Member for Droitwich (Sir John Pakington), who has just spoken; and I shall be curious to hear from the representatives of the Protestant Dissenters their reasons, should they think of rejecting the Motion of the noble Lord. Hitherto we have had some difficulty in defining what is meant by the language of the Bill, which speaks of religious education. It appears to me quite evident that the House does not mean, by the term "religious education," education in the religion of the Tycoon, or in that of Confucius. I do not believe that it means education in any of the Pantheistic or Polytheistic religions of the ancients; and I think there is a distinct object to be attained by ascertaining what the House really does mean by religious education. The hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Dixon), whom I see opposite to mo, will agree with me in this, although he is opposed to the teaching of any religion. I should be surprised if I were to hear the hon. Member rise in his place, and, as the representative of that great town, declare that his peculiar objection to religious education is because it is founded in the doctrines of the Bible. I do not believe that the hon. Member would make any such declaration as that. What, then, is the object of having this Amendment inserted in the Bill? To my mind that object is to define the religion that we contemplate; and I believe that we mean the religion contained in the Bible, which is common to every section of Christians. This is a distinct religion; a mere belief, which is indistinct, is not religion. Sir, I am quite willing that every denomination should put its own interpretation upon the religion derived from this standard. God forbid that I should support the insertion in the Bill of words which would have the effect of limiting that interpretation. Let the Unitarian, let the Presbyterian—in short, let every sect place its own interpretation on this religion; but let it be distinctly understood that what the Legislature means by the term "religious education," is education in the doctrines of the Bible. Now, there is a great object to be obtained by this; for, if there is any public value in religion, it is that it affords a standard of morals. I hold that the State has no right to intrude into what the Roman Catholic theologians describe as the "Forum interius"—that the State has no right to force conscience; but that it has a right to enforce the observance of the rules of morality, which are embodied in its laws. The House will excuse me for expressing, in distinct terms, the general sense of the great body of Protestant Christians, when they desire that the State should not repudiate in any way the Bible, as containing the religion which the State recognizes, and of which this very Bill is intended to promote the inculcation, as part of the education to be supported out of the public Revenue. ["Divide!"] Why do you shrink from me? You cry "Divide!" because I am distinct; because, in giving my support to this Amendment, I would put my position clearly before the House. I say, that the value of religion to the State, and the only concern which the State, or this House, as part of the State, ought to have with religion, is on account of the morality of which it is the source and the foundation. Well, Sir, I hold that the morality of the Bible is perfectly distinct and admitted; and I have always thought that the denominational system of primary education, as originally established in this country, was established on a wise foundation, because the first grants were made in aid of the voluntary exertions, and in aid of the subscriptions, which were collected by the National Society, and the British and Foreign School Society, both societies being bound by their rules to inculcate a religious, a Scriptural education. That was, and is, the rule; and then came the exceptions. First, the Jews came to Parliament and said—"We can only accept and teach one-half the Bible;" and the State, having considered their claim, said—"Consistently with our abstinence for making inquiries into conscientious objections, provided our standard be not violated by the rejection of the Bible, we will make an exception in your favour." The State, therefore, made a grant in favour of the Jews, but upon the understanding that they did not reject the Bible. Next came the Roman Catholics; the Roman Catholics equally claimed a share in the grant of public money on this ground—that they do not reject the Bible, although the Roman Catholic priesthood claim, according to the present practice of their Church, a monopoly for their own order not only in the teaching, but in the study of the Bible, and refuse it to the laity. This claim gave rise to a great difficulty in this House, but the House was lenient, and again made an exception. ["Question!"] Why this is distinctly the question. I am showing the House that the system which exists in this country is founded on a Scriptural basis, and that there are two great exceptions to it—the first made in deference to the consciences of the Jews; the second in deference to the application of the Roman Catholic hierarchy. ["Divide!"] Hon. Gentlemen will excuse me, but I feel that I am in the performance of my duty as a Member of this House in speaking distinctly of the matter before you. The exception, which was made at the instance of the Roman Catholic hierarchy, was still made only upon the ground that, although the priesthood claimed a monopoly in the study and teaching of the Bible and in teaching from the Bible, they did not reject the Bible; and, Sir, I do trust that the Legislature will not finally depart from the rule to which it has hitherto adhered, that whenever it grants public money in support of an education which it terms "religious," it intends to define the religion which it means by rendering the acceptance of the Bible the foundation of the grant. ["Divide!"] I know there are hon. Members who wish to shirk this question; but now, that it has been distinctly raised, I claim to put it plainly before the House. Allow me to advert for a moment to those who object on the score that children are incapable of understanding the Bible. Sir, the practice of the Christian world for centuries has confuted that assertion, and I put it to every man who recollects his early education, whether the maxims and texts from the Holy Scriptures which he learnt in childhood are not so deeply engraven on his memory that in times of trouble these texts and maxims come up in his mind readily to his relief. Sir, it amounts to the manifestation of a total ignorance of human nature, of an utter inexperience in education; it argues a complete disregard for the fundamental principles on which this commonwealth is regulated, to say that the Bible and its teaching has not been accepted for centuries, not only as the foundation of the education of the children of England, but of the laws which are to regulate their conduct in after-life. I claim this sanction. ["Oh!"] Yes, hon. Members opposite are much afraid of this question. They dislike that which is definite. Yet this has been my strength in public life, that I have always taken up a position which everyone could understand. Whether they approved or whether they disapproved of it, they have clearly understood what I meant; such ought to be the strength of this House, and I trust that the House of Commons will distinctly manifest its intention, proclaiming that its understanding of the term "religious education" is, as it has been, an education consistent with and embodying the religion of the Bible.
Question put, "That those words be there added."
The House divided:—Ayes 89; Noes 205: Majority 116.
moved, Second Schedule, First Part, paragraph 1, lines 9 and 10, leave out "provided that any poll shall be taken by Ballot." He said that neither the arguments which were used in the former debate, nor the Divisions which then were taken, had in the least degree qualified the opinion he then expressed respecting the proposal of the Government; and he asked the House to consider the mode in which it was recommended to their acceptance. In the first place, it was said that there was an Act of Will. IV. which had never come into practical operation, but which gave some kind of legislative sanction for the introduction of the Ballot; and, secondly, it was urged that under the operation of the Local Management Act the Ballot was used in the election of vestrymen in the metropolis. The Government, however, had now withdrawn both those arguments, for it was now provided that the Vice President should have the option of overriding every provision of the Local Management Act as far as the Ballot was concerned; though at that he was not surprised, for he was informed that the Ballot at the election of vestrymen was a nullity. The Government now asked the House to give autocratic power to a Department of the State to cause some undisclosed system to be adopted in every borough and school district. He contended that the proposal was not made either at the right time or in the proper place, for it was now impossible that either this House or the other could fairly discuss so grave and momentous a proposal at the fag-end of the Bill and so late in the Session; and, therefore, in the interest of the Ballot itself, the House ought to object to the proposal. On those grounds he moved the omission of the words.
Amendment proposed, in the Second Schedule, page 37, lines 9 and 10, to leave out the words "Provided that any poll shall be taken by ballot."—( Lord John Manners.)
Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Schedule."
The House divided:—Ayes 197; Noes 106: Majority 91.
moved, Second Schedule, page 37, line 10, after "provided that any poll shall be taken by Ballot," insert "in accordance with the principles upon which a poll is taken under 'The Metropolis Management Act, 1855.'"
In the Second Schedule, page 37, line 10, after the words "provided that any poll shall be taken by ballot," to insert the words "in accordance with the principles upon which a poll is taken under The Metropolis Management Act, 1855."—(Mr. William Edward Forster.)
Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
said, he had no wish to detain the House any longer, but he could not possibly allow the addition proposed by his right hon. Friend without a Division. As it was, however, so near 7 o'clock, he should move the adjournment of the debate.
said, he was in hopes that his hon. Friend would have been contented with the discussion which they had had already on this question, or that he would have taken a Division so as to have allowed the Committee to dispose at once of this stage of the Bill. It was most important that this question should be completed in that House without any further delay. If his hon. Friend, however, insisted upon his Motion for the adjournment of the debate, he (Mr. Forster) should earnestly appeal to hon. Members who had Motions on the Paper for the Evening Sitting to allow this question to be resumed immediately upon their re-assembling at 9 o'clock.
remarked that they had been 12 hours discussing this question with the hope of securing a real Ballot. The question now with the Liberal party was whether they would assent to accept what everyone knew was but a sham Ballot.
said, he thought there was no use in wasting any more time by adjourning this debate. It seemed to him that it would facilitate business if the hon. Member for Chelsea (Sir Charles Dilke) would go to a Division at once upon this question.
reminded the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Committee of Council that some of the Members who had Notices on the Paper for the Evening Sitting were not present.
was appealed to to withdraw his Motion for the adjournment of the debate; but as he refused to do so,
said, he would put the Bill upon the Paper after the other business, and would take his chance of bringing it on at any time.
Debate adjourned till this day.
Mr Speaker's Indisposition
The Clerk informed the House, That Mr. Speaker was prevented by indisposition from resuming the Chair this Evening.
Whereupon, Mr. Dodson, the Chairman of the Committee of Ways and Means, took the Chair as Deputy Speaker, pursuant to the Standing Order.
Parliament—Progress Of Business
appealed to hon. Gentlemen who had Motions on the Paper to postpone them, so that the Report on the Education Bill might be finished that night. That measure was of the greatest importance, and it had received the support of both sides of the House. The Government had spared no efforts to pass it through its final stage; but they had failed to pass the Report at the Morning Sitting, and unless it could be done that night the third reading could not take place before Monday next, and it would not reach the House of Lords till that day. He, therefore, appealed to the kindness, and, indeed, to the patriotism of hon. Gentlemen to postpone the Motions that stood in their names.
, who had given Notice of a Motion on the Metropolitan Police Force, said, he regretted to find that both the Prime Minister and the Speaker were absent in consequence of the long and exhaustive Sittings of the House. After the appeal of the Home Secretary, and in the hope that a Select Committee would be appointed early next Session to inquire into the constitution, &c., of the Metropolitan Police Force, he should withdraw his Motion.
Mr Leonard Edmunds
Motion For A Paper
, in rising to call the attention of the House to the arrest and detention in prison of Leonard Edmunds at the suit of the Crown; and to move for Papers, said, it was easy for the hon. Member for Windsor (Mr. Eykyn) to give way when the Government were ready to give him the Committee next Session for which he asked. He, however, stood in a different position, and there was the less necessity for him to give way, because the case he had to bring before the House would only occupy a very short time. It was known a short time ago as the "Edmunds' Scandal." The House was aware that there had been matters of litigation between Mr. Leonard Edmunds and the Government, who claimed a very considerable sum as having been received by Mr. Leonard Edmunds, and for which they contended he was liable He disputed the liability, and made counter-claims against the Government. An information was laid by the Crown some years ago in the Court of Chancery, and the then Vice Chancellor Giffard gave a decision adverse to Mr. Edmunds in some points, and making him liable for certain sums, of which he directed that an account should be taken; but, in justice to Mr. Edmunds, he ought to state that he entirely and expressly acquitted Mr. Edmunds of all moral fault. [The ATTORNEY GENERAL: The whole matter was not before the Court.] It was the duty of the Government to have laid the whole case before the Vice Chancellor, and if they failed to do so they were in fault, and they were not entitled now to make it a point against Mr. Edmunds. An account having been ordered to be taken, the whole matter was subsequently referred by counsel to two barristers, against Mr. Edmunds' expressed desire. Those barristers, who doubtless were gentlemen entitled to every confidence, ultimately decided, that Mr. Edmunds was indebted to the Crown in the sum of £7,000 odd, which, with a moiety of the costs of the reference, amounted altogether to about £8,100. That was in the month of November last year. Nothing further took place for a short time; but it happened that in consequence of a certain publication that had been made by two high officers of State Mr. Edmunds conceived that he had ground against them for an action for libel, in which the whole question between himself and the Crown would have been re-opened. Such was the position of the two parties, when in the spring of this year Mr. Edmunds was arrested for his debt to the Crown and thrown into prison, where he now remained. Now no, in common, he believed, with all hon. Members, at the time believed that by the Act of last year imprisonment for debt was abolished, except in the particular cases specified by the Act. The case of Mr. Edmunds came under none of them, yet in this instance the recovery of the debt he owed to the Crown had been pursued by the odious mode of imprisonment. He could not dispute the legality of the arrest, seeing that a very learned Judge had decided that it was legal; but he could easily have understood that another view of the matter might have been taken. He was bound to assume that the Crown had the legal right of imprisonment. But then it was a different thing to determine whether it was right to exercise that right. He trusted the House would consider how the question stood. It was distinctly stated by Vice Chancellor Giffard that there was in the case no moral fraud; that it was a mere question of debt; that there was no violation of trust, no retaining of money in his hands which he was unwilling to pay over, nor anything for which the penalty was prescribed by Act of Parliament. That being so, how was Mr. Edmunds placed? As far as he was concerned, unless the special mercy of the Crown was shown to him—and very little mercy had been shown to him hitherto—he would be imprisoned for the term of his natural life. Formerly, a man had the power to relieve himself from this position by becoming bankrupt. But that was the case no longer. He might give up every farthing he possessed; but unless he gave up £8,000 odd, he must remain a prisoner for the term of his natural life. Was that a position which Parliament contemplated when it abolished imprisonment for debt? If such a thing had then been mentioned on the floor of this House he was sure that a special provision would have been introduced to meet it. This was a casus omissus, and the Crown had taken advantage of it. This, then, was the position in which Mr. Edmunds was placed; and he called the attention of the House to the fact that when they all believed that imprisonment for debt had been altogether abolished, it was still continued in this odious form. Under these circumstances, he had thought it right to bring the matter before the House. It might be asked, why he did not come forward and propose an alteration in the law? But he need not tell the House that it would be idle for a private Member to attempt an alteration of the law at this period of the Session. But it was a question for the House, and still more for the Government, to consider whether it was right and fitting that the name of the Sovereign should be introduced into an Act of this sort; that when it was agreed that all others should be deprived of the right of imprisonment, the Sovereign, and she alone, should have this odious power, which was condemned by the good feeling of the House and the country? He begged to move—
"That there be laid before this House, a Copy of any Warrant or Order of Court for the commitment to prison of Leonard Edmunds at the suit of the Crown."
seconded the Motion.
said, he was astonished, that the well-known principle of law, "That the Crown was not bound by an Act of Parliament, unless specially named," should have been described by a lawyer to be "an old doctrine recently revived by the Law Officers of the Crown." The doctrine was as old as the existence of law in this country; it was still acted upon every day. His right hon. and learned Friend seemed to forget that the Prerogatives of the Crown, however they might be exercised in former days for the personal benefit of the Crown, were now only exercised for the benefit of the public, and had, in fact, become part of the rights of the nation. He dissented altogether from the proposition of his right hon. and learned. Friend when he said that, if before the passing of the Act the attention of the House had been called to the matter, provision would have been made for the abolition of the rights of the Crown. He would only say that if this had been so his voice would have been raised to protect the rights of the Crown, which he held to be of the highest importance to the welfare of the nation; for it was the nation, and not the Crown, that was concerned in the matter. He would not go into this miserable case of Mr. Edmunds; but he hoped that the Law Officers as long as the law existed would enforce it. If a wretched boy robbed his master's till of 1s. 6d., he was sent to prison; but if a public servant deprived the Exchequer of some thousands of pounds a morbid sympathy was raised for him, and an outcry was raised if he were dealt with according to law. His fear, on the contrary, was lest the Law Officers of the Crown should exercise the Prerogatives of the Crown with too gentle a hand. He would remind the House that there was a great distinction between the Crown and private debtors. An ordinary tradesman could sell his goods to whom he chose; but the Crown had no such choice. Its debts were contracted not by the choice of the Crown, and how was the Crown to recover the taxes from its debtors unless it had the power to enforce them? He hoped, therefore, the Crown would not give way upon this case. If the law was to be altered, let it be altered. But as long as it continued to exist it was the duty of the Law Officers to enforce it.
said, he had no intention of entering upon the legal argument, for which he felt himself utterly incompetent; but in consequents of the virtuous indignation into which the hon. and learned Gentleman who had just sat down had worked himself, he rose to ask the House to consider what the world at large were likely to say of the matter. He believed the world would consider that the rights of the Crown had little or nothing to do with it. They would look upon the Crown on one side, and Mr. Edmunds on the other, as two parties to a civil action which had been left to arbitration. It was not the case of a defaulting taxpayer, nor that of a defaulting officer of Inland Revenue. The facts of the case were that a suit between the parties had long been going on — between Mr. Edmunds and the Crown—and in the end a decision was given for the Crown. Hereupon the Lords of the Treasury issued a Minute which laid them open to a charge of libel. The action for libel was commenced, when it was stopped by the arrest of Mr. Edmunds. Now, would not the world say that this was an improper position for the high Officers of the Crown to place themselves in—that it was an unfortunate position for the Crown, and one to which it ought not to have been committed?
said, he must express his great surprise at the speech of his right hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Russell Gurney). The way in which the Law Officers viewed the matter was this—that Mr. Edmunds was a defaulter to the Crown in respect of moneys which he had received, and which he was bound to pay over to the Exchequer. His distinct duty was prescribed to him by Act of Parliament, and therefore he could not concur with the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Sclater-Booth) that his case was different from that of a defaulting taxpayer or defaulting collector of Inland Revenue. Mr. Edmunds had received money due to the Crown, and he had not paid it over, as it was his duty to do. But he was at a loss to understand the argument of his right hon. and learned Friend who introduced this Motion. He admitted that Mr. Edmunds had received £7,000 which he was bound to pay. He admitted that the Crown had a right to issue process against Mr. Edmunds' person. One of the highest authorities on the Bench, Mr. Justice Willes, entertained no doubt that the Crown had a right to adopt the proceedings that had been taken. If Mr. Edmunds had thought fit to appeal against the decision of Mr. Justice Willes he might have done so. His right hon. and learned Friend said that the Act of last Session was misunderstood. With great respect to his right hon. and learned Friend he must characterize that as a rather bold assertion. For himself, he must say he thought he understood it. Could anyone doubt that the Lord Chancellor and the Law Lords in the other House who passsed it understood it? If his right hon. and learned Friend rose and said he did not understand it he would give implicit credence to that statement, however it might surprise him; but he believed the Solicitor General and all the other lawyers in the House understood it in the sense he did. The Bankruptcy and Insolvency Acts of previous years had not interfered with the rights of the Crown, though certain of them had all but abolished imprisonment for debt in the case of debts due to ordinary creditors. Neither had the Act of last Session been intended to do away with the Prerogatives of the Crown in the case of defrauding debtors. When he spoke of the rights of the Crown in such matters he spoke of rights exercised for the benefit of the people. He thought his right hon. and learned Friend was entirely mistaken when he endeavoured to make out that it was the intention of the Legislature last Session to repeal the power of imprisonment for debt on the part of the collective community as represented by the Crown. In the Customs and Inland Revenue Act of last Session, passed within a week or two of the Act to which his right hon. and learned Friend had re-referred, there was a provision to the effect that where a sufficient distress could not be found, in every such case any two of the Commissioners were thereby authorized, by warrant under their hands, to commit the defaulter to the common gaol or House of Correction of the place where he was arrested, there to be kept until payment was made or until he should be released by order of the said Commissioners. This was an extension of the power of imprisonment for debt on the part of the Crown. If his right hon. and learned Friend then held the opinion he now appeared to do, it was astonishing that he did not object then to that provision. For himself, he was not much attached to imprisonment for debt, and would be thankful to see it abolished; but he had made inquiries of the Solicitor to the Inland Revenue Board, who told him that, in his opinion, it would be impossible to abolish imprisonment for debt in the case of persons who owed taxes, or of collectors who did not pay them over, and he also found that that Department and the Treasury, and all the Courts, had acted on the supposition that the Act of last Session did not apply to debts due to the Crown. In January, February, March, April, May, and June last a number of warrants and executions for non-payment of taxes and other debts due to the Crown were issued against the person, and the effect of those executions was that the debts were paid. There might be reasons why, as between subject and subject, the Legislature should abolish it; but nobody, he thought, would deny that imprisonment for debt was the most effectual of remedies. Several persons had been imprisoned since that Act was passed, and they had paid the debt; and he found there was one man in prison now for a comparatively small debt. Why were they to have all that sympathy for a great debtor and none for the small debtor? The question before the House was whether imprisonment for debt at the suit of the Crown should be altogether abolished. If so, the thing ought to be done by a well-considered Act of Parliament, and not by a Motion of that kind brought on at the end of the Session. They could not say that this remedy of the Crown, being enforced against other persons, it ought not to be enforced against Mr. Edmunds, although that would appear to be the effect of the Motion. He had no desire to enter into the merits of the case; but as his right hon. and learned Friend had done so, and Mr. Edmunds had circulated a large number of pamphlets calculated to mislead hon. Members—one-half of which might be described as consisting of misstatements in his own favour, and the other half of libels on other people—he thought it necessary to say a few words as to the real state of the case. He considered this an exceptional case, and believed that if there was anyone Crown debtor against whom it was necessary to issue execution it was Mr. Edmunds. Mr. Edmunds was appointed Clerk of the Patents in 1833 by Lord Brougham, and then the salary of the office was £400 a year. Mr. Edmunds' own account of the matter was that he accepted the office on the understanding that he was to receive £100, and pay the rest of the salary over to the Brougham family. It was not necessary for him to investigate whether that statement was true or not. If it was true, Mr. Edmunds, by his own showing, entered into a corrupt bargain, whereby he became the conduit pipe for clandestinely conveying the public money to persons who had no right to it. Mr. Edmunds, it appeared, did none of the duties of the office, but appointed a person named Ruscoe to perform the duties, which he did for a number of years. Ruscoe received nothing from Mr. Edmunds, but earned a precarious subsistence by small fees received from patentees, selling patent boxes, and buying stamps for patentees at wholesale prices, and selling them at retail prices and pocketing the difference. This trade in stamps subsequently became very profitable, and at length it was clearly made out that Mr. Edmunds took a sum of £500 of public moneys, which it was his duty, as he perfectly well knew, to pay into the Exchequer, and applied it in the purchase of stamps wholesale, which stamps he sold by retail, and thus he went on trading from year to year with that £500 of the public money, and making a large profit, which, in addition to the emoluments of his office, he put into his own pocket. But the case did not stop there. For some years he paid over the moneys he received to the Exchequer. It was his duty, by the Act under which he was appointed, to pay them over quarterly, and make a declaration that he had so paid them, which he did for some time. After a time he intermitted those payments; instead of making them quarterly he did it half-yearly, then yearly; and, as nobody found it out, he kept the sums in his possession for two years; and, finally, there being nobody to cheek those irregularities, he ceased making any payments at all. And from the year 1852 to the period when he was found out he put all that money, which he was bound to pay into the Exchequer, into his own pocket. Now, how was he found out? Quite accidentally. Mr. Edmunds, having a violent temper, quarrelled with Mr. Woodcraft, who did all the work of the office, and brought various charges against him, which turned out to be unfounded. Mr. Woodcraft did not then know of Mr. Edmunds' malversation, but made counter charges against him only of negligence and remissness in his duties. The subject came before the Commissioners of Patents, among whom were his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Richmond (Sir Roundell Palmer), the Lord Chancellor, the Master of the Rolls, and himself, and it was thought desirable to refer the whole matter with respect to the Patent Office to two gentlemen of the highest possible character—Mr. Greenwood and Mr. Hind-march. The arbitrators took great pains with the case—they examined into the matter carefully, and they had Mr. Edmunds before them. In the course of their investigation they expressed a desire to see the accounts, and they asked Mr. Edmunds for his pass-book. He was very unwilling to produce it; but the more unwillingness he displayed the more determination they manifested to get possession of it. Each time that they asked for the book he made excuses for not producing it, such as he had lost it, and the like. Finally, the arbitrators threatened that unless he gave it up they would apply to the Bank for a copy, and under terror of this threat the book was produced. From this book the arbitrators found that from the year 1852 Mr. Edmunds had never paid in one farthing to the public account. Now, what was his first account of the transaction—because in matters of this sort it was extremely important to ascertain the first story told by the individual whose conduct was implicated. It appeared from the Blue Book upon the subject that Mr. Edmunds had handed a paper across the table to Mr. Greenwood, admitting the wrong in relation to the non-payment with sorrow, and that was the only explanation of the matter the arbitrators could obtain from him. Eventually, the arbitrators found that Mr. Edmunds owed the Exchequer a sum of between £3,000 and £4,000; but before that decision was announced Mr. Edmunds paid into the Treasury the sum of £7,000, for which, fortunately for him, he obtained a receipt. He said fortunately, because the then Law Officers, after some hesitation, came to the conclusion that as the Treasury had chosen to treat him as a debtor, it was not, on the whole, expedient to prosecute him as a criminal. He referred to this matter to show that Mr. Edmunds, so far from having been hardly dealt with, had all along been treated with much leniency. But this was not the termination of the affair. Mr. Edmunds had been a pluralist. He had held, besides his other appointment, the Clerkship to the House of Lords, and the matter was investigated by a Committee of that House, among the members of which were the Duke of Somerset, the Earl of Derby, the Duke of Montrose, the Earl of Clarendon, and Lord Chelmsford, before whom he was cited, and personally called to give evidence. He admitted then that he had unfortunately omitted to pay a certain sum of money into the Consolidated Fund in the year 1852, and that he had also failed to do the like thing in the year following. Having missed two years, he said that he became alarmed, and was afraid to pay the money into the Exchequer the third year lest the whole of his accounts for 20 years previously should be audited. Each year, he declared, the difficulty of paying up the arrears became greater and he consequently allowed them to run on. There were many hon. and learned Members in that House who had prosecuted clerks for embezzlement, and they knew that the usual course of defence was, that having once omitted to make a payment they were afraid of making subsequent payments. The matter having been carefully considered by the Committee of the House of Lords, their Lordships came to the unanimous conclusion, among other things, that he was guilty of retaining in his own hands sums of money that ought to have been paid into the Exchequer, and that he had appropriated to his own private use various sums that belonged to the public. The Crown subsequently instituted proceedings in the Court of Chancery with reference to some other matters; and, with all respect to the right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (Mr. Russell Gurney), he must state that only part of the case was tried before the Vice Chancellor. Upon the evidence that was laid before him, the Vice Chancellor decided against Mr. Edmunds, but observed, at the same time, that there was no charge against his moral character. ["Hear, hear!"] Hon. Gentlemen might cry "Hear, hear!" but the Tice Chancellor had not the whole case before him, the misappropriation of the £7,000 under the circumstances he had stated was not referred to on the part of the Crown. He (the Attorney General) was bound to state, however, that he had in his possession a letter from Vice Chancellor Giffard, which he was willing to show to the right hon. and learned Gentleman, or to any other hon. Member opposite, informing Mr. Greenwood that had he known the whole facts of the case the observation with repect to Mr. Edmunds' character would not have fallen from him.
remarked that the letter to which the Attorney General referred was probably written by the Vice Chancellor, after hearing a one-sided statement.
said, he was willing to show the letter to which he had alluded to any hon. Member who might desire to see it. It was very unfortunate for Mr. Edmunds that the Vice Chancellor had made the complimentary remark to which he had referred, because it had encouraged him to proceed, with an action he had brought against Messrs. Greenwood and Hindmarch, and to make extravagant demands against the Crown. Thereafter the right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite agreed to refer all matters in dispute between Mr. Edmunds and the Crown to arbitrators. [Mr. RUSSELL GURNEY: No, no!] He maintained that such was the case. He had been engaged in the case from the beginning, and knew all the facts. On behalf of Mr. Edmunds it was demanded that all his claims—legal, equitable, and moral—should be referred to arbitration. It was at first objected to on the part of the Crown to arbitrate upon his moral claims; but latterly they agreed even to include these claims. The hon. and learned Member for Tiverton (Mr. Denman), and Mr. Pollock—a counsel of great eminence—were appointed to arbitrate, Mr. Manisty acting as umpire. They were engaged 11 days in hearing the case, two or three being occupied by Mr. Edmunds himself, and they came to an agreement without calling in the umpire.
said, he wished to state that he and Mr. Pollock took especial pains to have it understood that they were not arbitrators either for the Crown or for Mr. Edmunds, but they entered into the case quite irrespective of persons.
said, he did not question that both the learned gentlemen were impartial. They agreed that a sum of over £8,000 was still due from Mr. Edmunds to the Crown in respect of money which he was bound to pay over, but had retained in his possession, and had put some of it out to interest for a number of years, and some of which he had used for the purpose of carrying on the trade in stamps. Mr. Edmunds had then the courage to assert that he retained that money purposely and advisedly, because he had applied once or twice to the Treasury for an audit but could not obtain one, and when asked to whom he applied he named two gentlemen, both of whom were dead, one of whom was Mr. James Wilson, the Secretary to the Treasury. No letters; however, could be found making such application. Mr. Edmunds also said he told Mr. Wilson that he had several thousands of pounds in hand, which he desired to pay over on his accounts being audited, and he added that on hearing his statement Mr. Wilson shrugged his shoulders and said nothing; he would leave anybody who knew the late Mr. James Wilson to judge whether he was the man, in hearing that money was due to the Treasury, to say no more about it. If Mr. Edmunds had hinted anything of the kind he would have had a Treasury letter the next morning. According to Mr. Edmunds' own account what he desired was an efficient audit. Well, Messrs. Greenwood and Hindmarch were appointed for the purpose of investigating the whole question. Yet they found the greatest difficulty in getting at the whole facts, and only learned them from Mr. Edmunds under the influence of a threat. If ever the right of the Crown against the person was to be enforced, it surely should be enforced against Mr. Edmunds. How could this Prerogative of the Crown be enforced against small debtors if it was allowed to lie in abeyance in the case of the greatest Crown debtor of the century? If the House wished to repeal the power of the Crown to apply a summary process against any debtor, a Bill ought to be introduced in order that the matter might be thoroughly discussed; but as that power still existed the Treasury would have failed in its duty if it had not applied it to the case of Mr. Edmunds. Had the Crown treated him as a bankrupt Mr. Edmunds would not have been better off, for the Court of Bankruptcy might have dealt with him as a fraudulent debtor, in which case he would have been liable to imprisonment. He left the case in the hands of the House, submitting that they could not come to the conclusion that the Treasury had done wrong in this matter.
said, his right hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Russell Gurney) had opened the case as shortly as possible, while the hon. and learned Gentleman who had just sat down had gone into the case elaborately, arguing it as a counsel engaged on the other side against Mr. Edmunds, and the only tiling he had proved — if he had proved anything—was that he himself had compromised a felony. The question was not whether the Crown had the right of imprisoning for debt or not, but whether the course pursued towards Mr. Edmunds was, on any ground whatever, justifiable. He (Sir James Elphinstone) had known Mr. Edmunds for 31 years, and he did not believe he was a fraudulent debtor. On the contrary, he agreed with the judgment of Lord Justice Giffard, and was of opinion that Mr. Edmunds was an innocent man. He therefore asked the Mouse and the country whether it was right and becoming that the power of the Crown should be exercised to crush this unfortunate man? Here was a man who, at the cost of thousands of pounds, had defended himself against the vilest charges, and now, at the age of 69 years and five months, he was in prison, and was left there to die, and if he did die they knew where his blood would rest. ["Oh!"] Yes, he was near his three score years and ten, the period allotted to man. Although the decision against him was given last November, Mr. Edmunds was allowed to be free until he had brought an action against certain high officers. The moment it became clear that an action would be brought steps were at once taken to make it a remanet, and Mr. Edmunds was persuaded to postpone his action by means which were scarcely creditable. Three weeks ago Mr. Brutton waited on him (Sir James Elphinstone) just before he had started for a Committee of that House. He told him he came from Mr. Bradley, the Solicitor to the Treasury, for the purpose of negotiating Mr. Edmunds' release. He (Sir James Elphinstone) told Mr. Brutton that Mr. Edmunds ought not to consent to postpone the trial unless he first obtained his freedom; but he, at the same time, added that if Mr. Edmunds had an honourable understanding with the Treasury he would advise him to postpone his action, as it was a most inconvenient time for prominent Members of the Government to be asked to engage in such a matter. He wrote a note to the effect to Mr. Edmunds. Well, this gentleman, who represented that he was set in motion by the Treasury, went to Mr. Edmunds, in Whitecross Street Prison, and repeated his statement in the presence of Mr. Bernardo Shiel, who happened to be visiting Mr. Edmunds at the time. Mr. Edmunds said to Mr. Brutton—"I will not give the required consent for the remanet unless I receive a quid pro quo. I require an exchange of papers—the consent on the one hand, the unconditional discharge from prison on the other." Mr. Edmunds spoke roughly and in the most decided manner. Mr. Brutton said that could not be done, as there were some red-tape formalities to be gone through, adding that his only object was to help him through his difficulties. If these persons were summoned to the Bar of the House they would prove the correctness of what he had just stated. Mr. Edmunds would never have given up the lever he had over the Government, only for certain promises held out to him; and now having been induced to withdraw by some means or other, the unfortunate man was to be kept in prison until next December. It was the opinion of his medical advisers that this would be most injurious if not fatal to his health. Sir William Fergusson, on the 4th of July, said he had just seen Mr. Edmunds in Whitecross Street Prison; that he had been in the habit of attending him for 20 years, that he had lately had an attack of erysipelas, that he had been always accustomed to bracing exercise in the open air, and that a long detention in prison would seriously affect his health. Dr. Waters also stated that he had been struck by the altered appearance of Mr. Edmunds, which he could only attribute to his present confinement. The case, if he was spared, would come before a jury of his countrymen in December, and then he would obtain that verdict to which he had a right. If it was adverse his friends might desert him; but he (Sir James Elphinstone) never would.
said, he felt bound to take part in this debate after the remarks which had fallen from the Attorney General; but it would be, of course, unbecoming in him to adopt one side or the other as regarded voting upon the question. He had attended frequently in that House whenever that Motion was on the Paper, because he thought it would be a proper opportunity of answering a charge made against him by the hon. Baronet (Sir James Elphinstone), who, however, he was quite aware, know nothing whatever about the legal bearings of the question. He and his brother arbitrator had been charged on an occasion when he was not in the House with having decided this case ex parte. Nothing could be more different from the fact than such a statement. When first appointed arbitrators, he, himself, and Mr. Pollock had distinctly given it to be understood that they only accepted the reference upon the understanding that they were to be joint arbitrators to all intents and purposes, and not the arbitrators of either party. They examined the evidence most carefully, and read all the Blue Books and documents which were prepared by both sides. They read those documents both during the hearing and afterwards, and they then met together to discuss the case, when they both took exactly the same general view of the case, and were of opinion that they could not do otherwise than make an award to the extent of over £7,000 against Mr. Edmunds. He ought, in justice to themselves, to say that the inquiry before the arbitrators was somewhat limited in its character though it was large in its scope. In the first place, they had, in accordance with the principle laid down by Vice Chancellor Giffard, as to the legality of certain transactions of Mr. Edmunds, to decide whether any money was due to the Crown, for the Vice Chancellor laid down a principle, according to which, if they found certain facts, Mr. Edmunds had no right to retain certain moneys, and by that principle they were bound. They also felt themselves almost bound not to award any costs against Mr. Edmunds, however much they might think he was in the wrong; because the Vice Chancellor had decided the question of costs in the Chancery suit not in Mr. Edmunds' favour, but still not against him, and they found themselves tied by the order of reference in that respect Under the order of reference, they were empowered to say whether upon any moral grounds they recommended that Mr. Edmunds should be relieved from the payment of sums which might be actually due from him. In the sequel they did find that a larger amount than £7,000 was due from him; but they decided to advise the Crown to release him from the payment of a portion of the amount due. He wished to explain, however, that although they acted under that part of the order of reference which enabled them to recommend that Mr. Edmunds should be relieved from some portion of the strict claims against him on "moral grounds," they did not at all mean to say that any part of Mr. Edmunds' conduct was meritorious or honourable to him. The arbitrators found that during a certain period Mr. Edmunds had been receiving a less sum than he might have expected to receive, according to the original terms of his employment, and therefore they remitted a certain portion of the amount due from him. The award of the arbitrators, was founded upon a belief that Mr. Edmunds, who ought to have paid very large sums to the Crown, had wilfully, and with a full knowledge that he was doing wrong, kept back that money for a great many years, and made a profit out of it on his own account. That was the basis of the award, and it was on that ground that the arbitrators decided against him. He could not, therefore, say he looked upon Mr. Edmunds as free from moral blame. He had heard the opinion of Vice Chancellor Giffard quoted more than once as though it were directly in the teeth of the opinions of the two Commissioners, Mr. Greenwood and Mr. Hindmarch, the opinion of the Committee of the House of Lords, and the opinions of the two arbitrators. But Vice Chancellor Giffard himself had told him (Mr. Denman), after the award was made, that he had not read the Blue Books on the subject when the case was argued before him, and that if he had read them at the time he should have come to a very different opinion, and would have abstained from expressing anything like an acquittal of Mr. Edmunds from moral blame in his judgment. That he could vouch for as having been said to him by Vice Chancellor Giffard. He gave this explanation because of the attacks which had been made upon him and his fellow-arbitrator not only in the course of this discussion, but in Mr. Edmunds' pamphlet, in which the arbitrators were falsely charged with having resolved to conclude the arbitration by a certain day, and decided the case ex parte against Mr. Edmunds, the charge being accompanied with the line—
Whereas the matter had been most fully heard from beginning to end, and there was not a particle of foundation for any such statement."So wretches hang that jurymen may dine."
said, that everyone who considered how unsuitable that House was for the discussion of legal questions must regret that a discussion of the nature of the present should have arisen. If legal questions demanded consideration, there were proper tribunals appointed by the Constitution for their decision. The bringing before that House in an indirect manner a charge against the execution of a law founded on an allegation of the illegality of the proceeding could have no justification, because if the commitment were illegal, the person arrested under it would be discharged from arrest. He, therefore, declined to give any support or assistance to any attempt here to impeach the proceedings, on the ground of illegality, or on the ground that a particular Act of Parliament was passed without its meaning or intention being understood. The law, as it existed, must be administered; and, if it were wrong, it must be altered by legislative interference, and not by indirect Motions or charges against the officers who were responsible to the public for its execution. Beside the objection that this was not the proper tribunal to decide, it appeared to him there also existed, the objection to the discussion that it was most inexpedient. The hon. and learned Member for Tiverton (Mr. Denman) who, the moment he was appointed an arbitrator, became a Judge and utterly ceased to have anything to do with the case, except as it lay within the record placed before him, whose mind should have been incapable of receiving an impression upon the case, except in his judicial capacity, and who ought not to have been as it were forced to come forward to express an opinion upon the matter, had been brought into examination, and obliged to give a history of his mode of reading the Papers in the case, and of his conferences with his brother arbitrator, and to reveal matters which would more wisely have been secluded within the sacred precincts of judicial investigation. The right hon. Gentleman (the Recorder of London) had made that House a tribunal for entering into the conduct of two men, whose position, honour, and reputation at the English Bar were quite sufficient to protect them, without having to come forward in any other way. He did not approve of the mode in which the question was brought forward; and he must say that he had not the remotest doubt as to the £7,000 being due, when he found it awarded by such men. Still it did not follow from that that he or any other Member of the House should be perfectly satisfied with the proceedings. When he came down to the House his impression was entirely in favour of the Crown; but the Attorney General had pointed out in his speech another mode of proceeding, which would have been much preferable to the one actually adopted, if it were open to the Executive—proceedings in bankruptcy.
said, he did not say that the Crown could have proceeded against Mr. Edmunds in bankruptcy; but that if they had been able to do so he did not think Mr. Edmunds would have fared better.
said, that he was not acquainted with the English bankruptcy laws, which were different from those in Ireland; but he must say that some such proceeding, if it could have been adopted, would have been preferable to one in which the Government made themselves the absolute masters and judges of the whole matter. Why had Parliament passed an Act which repealed the law for imprisoning a man for debt? Simply because it was not held right to imprison a man for a pecuniary demand. The tendency of the age was to abolish imprisonment except where there was a moral wrong in the case. But what had been done in this case? There was no finding of a moral wrong by any legal tribunal. Mr. Edmunds was arrested for £7,000, but it did not seem to have been considered what was to be done with him? Was there a period at which he could be discharged, or was it intended to detain him for life? for that was what the matter came to. The Government, when they took the step of arresting Mr. Edmunds, made themselves the judges of his misconduct or malversation. The Crown possessed a vast power in following and reaching goods which no private individual possessed; but instead of putting it in force in this case, Mr. Edmunds had been arrested, and the Government made themselves the judges as to his period of incarceration, for Mr. Edmunds could not take the benefit of the Insolvent Act. He had looked into such of the documents in the case as were before the House, and he found that Lord Justice Giffard in his judgment declared, as to some part of the case, that it arose from an unfortunate Act of Parliament passed in reference to a state of circumstances which changed immediately afterwards. And Lord Justice Giffard also judicially declared that the arguments and evidence placed before him had been successful in clearing the character of Mr. Edmunds from all imputations. That was the solemn judgment of a learned Judge; but the whole effect of it was to be frittered away by a letter not on sworn testimony, not after argument by counsel, not after all the advantages had been accorded which the law gave to every man who demanded inquiry, but on the private question and application of the Attorney General or of the arbitrators.
denied that he had ever said that it was upon his application that Vice Chancellor Giffard had made the observation he had quoted. It was a purely voluntary observation made by the Vice Chancellor to him.
said, that did not, in his opinion, make the least difference. It was an alarming principle that the decision of a Judge in his judicial capacity was to be frittered away by private conversations, because there was no case ever decided in which it might not be said that though the judgment pronounced on the Bench pronounced one thing, yet the conversation of the Judge afterwards over the dinner table asserted another. Mr. Edmunds got the office, as he understood the facts, with an agreement that the present Lord Brougham was to receive a proportion of the salary, and it was said that that noble Lord admitted that he had received £9,000 from the emoluments of the office while the whole salary was but £400 a year. Now was that office, or was it not, under the control of the Lord Chancellor, and ought not successive Lord Chancellors or Chancellors of the Exchequers to have kept their eyes upon it? Had there not been gross laches on the part of the Crown? Had not successive Governments given a sort of connivance to what had taken place by abstaining from interference? Then, he asked, was it not hard that the Government should suddenly turn round upon Mr. Edmunds and say—We will bring you to account. You have had £7,000 out of the office you had no right to; but we close our eyes to the fact that out of the income £9,000 has gone to Lord Brougham. Surely that was a matter to be inquired into; but Ille crucem tulit hic diadema. The condemnation fell upon Mr. Edmunds alone, although he had come under the notice of several Chancellors; and although the demand arose under an Act of Parliament, passed under different circumstances, and he was ordered to pay the whole as if it was a plain and simple transaction. It seemed to him that, unless no excuse could by possibility have been given for his conduct, and that it was plainly and undoubtedly morally wrong, the imprisonment of Mr. Edmunds was extremely harsh, and that every other means which could have been suggested ought to have been tried before this proceeding was taken. But, without any judicial condemnation of him as morally guilty, Government acted as judge and executioner in their own case.
said, he thought it was rather unfortunate for Mr. Edmunds that his case had been brought before the House. Regular proceedings were instituted against him, and he defended them, and the result was that he was found to have incurred a very heavy debt to the Crown. The exculpation pronounced by the learned Judge was purely voluntary, and the last act of the Judge must be taken as explaining why he wished to retract what he had stated in his judgment. But again the matter was referred to the arbitration of two gentlemen of unimpeachable character, who went out of their way to say that not only legally, but morally, Mr. Edmunds was a debtor to the Crown in £7,000 or £8,000. The Crown had therefore no option but to proceed upon the decision, and all that could be said in mercy to Mr. Edmunds was that he had now no means to pay this debt, and was in his 69th year, and in bad health. There was no defence, and yet it was made an accusation against the Officers of the Crown that they had done their duty. The friends of Mr. Edmunds had injudiciously entered into details which would not bear investigation; whereas, if they had appealed ad misericordiam to the Crown, the circumstances of his present position might have been taken into consideration, and he (Mr. Serjeant Sherlock) would then have been prepared, for one, to support the case. As it was, Mr. Edmunds had been imprisoned by his own default.
said, nothing could be more disagreeable, or more opposed to the general rule on which he acted, than for him to take part in a debate relating to matters in which he had been officially or professionally concerned; but he felt that he should be doing some wrong to his hon. and learned Friend below him (the Attorney General), and those who shared with him in the responsibility of the Government, if he were to be entirely silent upon this occasion. He desired to remind the House that the proceedings against Mr. Edmunds were, as nearly as possible in substance, although not in form, taken under the direction of the House. There had been inquiries, and the results had been made public, and the matter had been carefully examined by a Committee of the House of Lords, who considered that he had been a defaulter in respect of public accounts committed to his care, out of which he was considered to have made illegitimate profit. Frequent questions were asked in that House, and pressure was put upon the Government of the day to compel them to take some effectual proceedings against Mr. Edmunds. It was considered most proper to adopt the civil form of procedure, as being that least accompanied with harshness, and a course which would enable the Crown to avoid, as far as possible, introducing any unnecessary imputations with regard to personal conduct. In the bill filed in Chancery the case was stated as drily as possible, the Officers of the Crown confining their statements to what was strictly necessary for the purpose of obtaining a decree for an account, the proper civil remedy. When the case came before I the learned Judge, they directed their arguments—as they had also directed their evidence—to that point alone, Somewhat unexpectedly, though perhaps not unnaturally, the counsel for Mr. Edmunds went into those points of personal crimination which the Crown had abstained from touching. It was, therefore, almost inevitable that the learned Judge—whose name it was impossible to mention without a deep sense of the serious loss which the country had sustained by his death—should be induced to soften the decision upon the points of law which he felt compelled to pronounce by saying that, as the matter came before him, the explanations offered by Mr. Edmunds appeared to be such as might relieve his character from imputation, though insufficient to prevent a decree for an account being made against him. But it was a total misapprehension to suppose that the learned and excellent Judge was expressing, or could by any possibility have then given, a final opinion upon the real merits of the case, which were not, and could not be fully before him until the particulars and the general result of the account were seen. What was said on that occasion was quite consistent with the subsequent award. It would be an unfortunate circumstance if anything which might take place in the House should give countenance to the notion that persons intrusted with public money could be allowed to be so lax in their accounts as to have the opportunity of making use of any portion of the money for their private purposes. He trusted that nothing would be said or done in Parliament which might lead to the conclusion outside, especially among public officers, that the House looked upon matters of this kind more leniently and indulgently at the present time than it did in the year 1865.
said, that he and Sir James Fergusson had been requested to look into this case. Subsequently it had been submitted to arbitration, and he would not have the presumption to question the judgment of the arbitrators. He did not, however, admit that the case before the House was simply that of the Crown and Mr. Edmunds. The question was not whether Mr. Edmunds had acted rightly or wrongly, but whether, imprisonment for debt having been done away with in civil cases, Mr. Edmunds, who had not been previously convicted as a fraudulent debtor, should be shut out from the benefit of that change in our law. Though four learned Gentlemen of great ability had addressed the House from the Government side, not one of them had applied himself to that point. It should be admitted that while the Government possessed this exceptional power they were bound to exercise it with great discretion, under great responsibility, and bearing in mind that they should give no occasion for any suspicion of animus in whatever they did. It was an unfortunate coincidence, calculated to produce a bad effect out-of-doors, that when Mr. Edmunds commenced an action for libel against the Treasury, at once the Treasury should have sought to incarcerate him. The public at large, not being as well informed on the matter as the House of Commons, might think that a cruel proceeding, though the House did not think so. They knew that the Attorney General and the Chancellor of the Exchequer divided between them the honour of Mr. Edmunds' incarceration, and they knew they were both humane men. The Attorney General was a man of great humanity, who would not tread upon a worm; and the Chancellor of the Exchequer was well known to have the tenderest of hearts. It might truly be said of the right hon. Gentleman, as it had been said of Kirke White, that "he was not only overflowing with the milk of human kindness, but he monopolized the whole of the cream." What could they obtain from this shattered old man? He had been in possession of a valuable appointment. That was gone. He would have been entitled to a pension for long service. That was gone. He had occupied a good position in society. That was gone. He had had ample means of livelihood. They were gone. Even his health was shattered. How much lower was it necessary to bring him? They might take his life; but would there be any advantage to the public in that? The British public were in favour of justice to the fullest extent; but they abhorred anything like persecution. And he must express his own opinion that anything which had the semblance of persecution was a degradation to the position of the Law Officers, and to the Government under which they served. He did not see what public interest could be served by the incarceration of a poor, ruined, and borne-down man from whom nothing more could be obtained.
said, that if the Motion invited the House to pass almost a Vote of Censure upon the Law Officers of the Crown, he was sure the House would readily agree that a case had not been made out for any interference on the part of Parliament. He thought the House would rather concur in the opinion of the right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (Dr. Ball), in declaring that to bring to the Bar of the House of Commons questions of law, and to discuss them as political and even party questions, was a highly objectionable course. We had been told, on high authority, of the disadvantages which would arise if gentlemen holding high judicial positions were allowed to occupy seats in the House of Commons. He would not express any opinion on that as a general proposition; but if right hon. Members eminent in their judicial position, most eminent in their character, and most admired for their antecedents in that House, were to bring to the Bar of the House of Commons other Judges, and to almost impeach the legality of their proceedings, then one might be led to doubt whether the presence of other Judges in that Assembly would be an advantage. What had been done in this case? Here was a gentleman with whom the Government had nothing whatever to do. Mr. Edmunds was personally unknown to him. When he took Office he and his learned Friend the Attorney General found that proceedings had been instituted against Mr. Edmunds by his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Richmond (Sir Roundell Palmer), and it was in progress when his hon. and learned Friend was in Office. The case was referred by the Treasury, at the earnest instance of Mr. Edmunds himself, to arbitration, and it was referred upon the principles laid down by Vice Chancellor Giffard, who carefully conducted the case so as not to raise moral questions. If Vice Chancellor Giffard gave a moral judgment it was an extra-judicial one, given for the purpose of making a disagreeable judgment as agreeable in manner as was possible. At the earnest instance of Mr. Edmunds, the case was referred to arbitrators, one of whom was chosen by himself and the other by the Government; and they decided that Mr. Edmunds, in addition to nearly £8,000 which he had paid over, under terror of exposure, was justly indebted to the Crown to the amount of nearly £8,000 more. When asked to make an explanation Mr. Edmunds conducted himself as a man who was guilty of malversation and paid over the £8,000. A suit was, therefore, instituted for the recovery of £7,000, and as Mr. Edmunds would not pay what else could they do? How could they avoid putting into execution the powers with which they were clothed? His right hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Russell Gurney) must know that, although imprisonment for debt had been abolished, this did not hold good with regard to a debtor to the Crown. What argument against the exercise of this power was it to say that this gentleman was 70 years of age? With respect to the sarcasms thrown out by his right hon. Friend (Mr. Horsman) against his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer and his hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General, he (the Solicitor General) was quite ready to share the responsibility of sanctioning what had been done. The power in question was a most salutary power, and one without which it would be impossible to collect a large portion of the Revenue. He thought it right that, when a portion of the public money had been misapplied, extraordinary power should be exercised.
said, he thought it necessary that he should say a few words in reply. He had been astonished to hear the hon. and learned Solicitor General say that he had been guilty of bringing the Judges to the Bar of that House. Anything more unlike the course he had really pursued than that statement could hardly be conceived. Not a single word had fallen from him that could bear the interpretation put upon his remarks by the Solicitor General. From the commencement to the end of his observations he had said he was not going into the merits of Mr. Edmunds' case. He had called attention to the only judicial judgment on record in the matter—namely, that of Vice Chancellor Giffard. The hon. and learned Member for Richmond (Sir Roundell Palmer) said that information was filed in a way that would bring not the criminality, but the conduct of Mr. Edmunds before the Vice Chancellor; but the very things which had formed the substance of the Attorney General's speech were pressed by the hon. and learned Member for Richmond and Mr. Wickens before the Vice Chancellor, and having those matters before him the Vice Chancellor came to the decision which he had stated—namely, that there was no criminality, that it was a simple case of debtor and creditor, that Mr. Edmunds was legally liable, and that was all. He had brought that matter before the House, having been asked to do so, as an important constitutional question, and he had urged that at a time when the public believed, and the House believed, that imprisonment for debt was abolished, except in certain cases specified in the Act of Parliament, they found, in that which was declared by the only judicial decision upon the case to be a mere debt, the Crown was enforcing payment of the debt by the odious mode of imprisonment, which was condemned by the moral sense of the country. The speech of the Attorney General that night was a kind of rehearsal of the speech he would have to make next November, and it was scarcely becoming in the principal Law Officer of the Crown to make a strong ex parte speech in that House in respect to a case in which he was subsequently to appear before a jury. He had distinctly told the learned Attorney General beforehand that he was not going into the merits of the case, but simply into the question of imprisonment for debt. He had strictly followed that course, and yet the hon and learned Gentleman had thought fit to enter into matters which were hardly becoming the position he occupied.
rose to explain. [Loud cries of "Oh, oh!"]
ruled that the hon. and learned Attorney General might give an explanation of what he had said.
wished to remark that he complained that his right hon. and learned Friend had said he would not go into the merits of the case, and then had proceeded to enter into them.
also desired to explain. [Loud, cries of "Divide!"]
ruled that the hon. and learned Gentleman might claim to speak in explanation.
said, that his right hon. and learned Friend seemed to think that he had convicted him (Sir Roundell Parmer) of inconsistency when he referred to his argument before Vice Chancellor Giffard. What he had said was that he had not then gone into matters of a personal kind. The passage to which his right hon. and learned Friend referred simply stated the facts, which were necessary to entitle the Crown to the account which it sought and obtained, and which raised the questions of law, upon which the Judge decided that Mr. Edmunds was wrong.
Ordered, That there be laid before this House, a Copy of any Warrant or Order of Court for the commitment to prison of Leonard Edmunds at the suit of the Crown.—( Mr. Russell Gurney.)
, in rising to call attention to the nature of certain works in progress at the Serpentine; and to move, "That, in the opinion of this House, the bed of the Serpentine, after being thoroughly cleared of mud, should be tilled up so as to leave a maximum depth of six feet in the summer months, reducible to four feet in the winter months, with an easy slope from the banks, and an adequate supply of fresh water should be secured so as to cause, during the summer months, a constant outfall at the lower end," said, that for 20 years the state of that river had been a cause of public agitation, and 12 years ago £1,000 was voted for the purpose of carrying out a filtering scheme, though he had not been able to discover whether the process then suggested had ever been tried. Last October businesslike preparations were made for altering the river according to popular requirements, and since then any inconvenience which had resulted from the works in progress had been cheerfully borne in the hope that the public would at last have a piece of water which would insure the health and safety of the large population which resorted to it. For some time past, however, that prospect had been fading away, and it was now found that the First Commissioner had no such boon in store, much disappointment being thereby caused in the public mind. As to the present plan, it had been deprecated without reference to party, and while he did not accuse the First Commissioner of having originated it, he thought the right hon. Gentleman could hardly complain of having to bear criticism since he had shown such a determination to accept the plan as his own. The Press assailed him, but found him indifferent; deputations waited upon him, but he seemed to think they would do better to mind their own business. It had, however, been recently ordered that the mud should be removed from a portion of the bed of the river, and for this concession he was grateful, as it would prevent pollution; but, as regarded the safety of human life, he contended that the scheme was worthless. There was a difference between what the public required and what the right hon. Gentleman was willing to do in order to render the Serpentine pure for bathers and safe for skaters. As to purity, the First Commissioner offered something which would not insure that condition unless provision was made for a frequent and regular supply of fresh water; while as to safety, the plan was such that only the ignorant or foolhardy would trust to it. In order to insure purity it was necessary that three things should be done—first, the bed of the river must be thoroughly cleansed from mud; secondly, the bed must be filled up to a certain extent with gravel or some other hard substance; and, thirdly, there must be a regular supply of fresh water to replace that which had been polluted by the bathers. But according to present arrangements there was no provision of that kind, though it might easily and cheaply be done by uniting the Pound Pond at Kensington with the reservoir of the Grand Junction Water Works, which was distant only 1,200 yards. The most important of all the questions connected with the Serpentine was the safety of the public, and that could only be done by tilling up the bed of the river to a reasonable depth. He admitted that that would be attended with expense; but he did not know how the public money could be expended better than for the safety of the public, while, when the outlay had been made a saving would be effected, for a shallow lake would not require so muck water to be sent through it as a deep one would need. There was a certain proportion of bathers who could not swim, and another proportion who were not five feet high; and for these he should recommend an easier slope in the bank than one in six, for which his right hon. Friend conceived he had the authority of nature as exemplified at the sea shore. Further, in the interests of safety, he would suggest that a maximum depth of six feet in summer should be reduced to four feet in the winter months. He admitted that the suggestions he had made involved expenditure; but he denied that they involved extravagance. Further, he ventured to say that if this favourable opportunity were lost, if the works were completed according to the present plan, and the Serpentine left with a depth varying from 8 to 14 feet, the time would soon come, though not perhaps until the recurrence of some such awful catastrophe as that which happened in Regent's Park a few years ago, when a greater sacrifice of public convenience and public money would have to be made. The hon. and gallant Gentleman concluded by moving his Resolution.
said, he had a similar Notice on the Paper; he would not, however, bring it forward, but would second the Motion of his hon. and gallant Friend. He felt a certain diffidence in doing so on account of some remarks of the First Minister the other day, that he, a Member for the Isle of Wight, should speak on metropolitan improvements. He had to apologize for what he had done, having been 18 months out of Parliament; but as the right hon. Gentleman was not then present, he would not trouble the House with the few remarks which otherwise he should have made on the subject. He wished to call the attention of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to the matter before the House in the interest of economy, which he so ably represented. The first principle of economy was to do well what one had to do, and never to do what would have to be done over again. Some years ago £1,700 was spent upon the filtration of the water of the Serpentine, and that money had been entirely thrown away. Last year £13,000 had been expended on the works, and this year there was a Vote for £8,000 more, and if it ended there all that money would be thrown away also. He believed that the First Commissioner of Works was now willing to spend £5,000 more to get rid of the mud; but even that also would be thrown away as far as the interests of the public were concerned. He formed that opinion from the numerous letters he had seen on the subject. The proposed maximum depth of 14 feet would be much increased when the mud was all removed; but when that was done would the public be satisfied? It would not. It was impossible to suppose that there could be any safety to the people who bathed in the Serpentine if they had that depth of water. The Report of the Committee of 1861 recommended that measures should be taken to make the bed of the Serpentine clean and hard, that it should be covered with concrete and then with gravel, and that provision should be made for the safety of bathers and skaters. The sum they fixed on was £50,000, and they said that when a large sum of money was being spent the opportunity should be taken of beautifying the Serpentine. The present opportunity might be turned to account by the formation of islands, which would go far to beautify the water, and would enable the right hon. Gentleman to exercise his great powers of imagination and to put to good, use the mud which at present he did not know how to get rid of. In 1868 there were half a million of bathers in the Serpentine; were they going to consult the interests of these people? The right hon. Gentleman had said the other day if they could not bathe there let them go elsewhere. Would the right hon. Gentleman say what he meant by that? Did he mean that they should bathe in the Thames? All he asked was that the public money should not be spent without anything satisfactory being done for it, for certainly it would be much better to spend £50,000 upon an admirable and beautiful work than to spend £26,000 without giving any satisfaction. This was a question of common sense—to know how the works might be executed efficiently. If they were to defeat the Government to-night on this point, they would be doing a good public work.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
"That, in the opinion of this House, the bed of the Serpentine, after being thoroughly cleared of mud, should be filled up so as to leave a maximum depth of six feet in the summer months, reducible to four feet in the winter months, with an easy slope from the banks, and an adequate supply of fresh water should be secured so as to cause, during the summer months, a constant outfall at the lower end."—(Captain Grosvenor.)
questioned the propriety of making a great bathing establishment at the expense of the Consolidated Fund; and denied that the Serpentine was the proper place for such an establishment. He admitted it was absolutely necessary that the mud should be cleared out. With regard to the water in Regent's Park, after all the money that had been spent everybody was complaining of its present state. [Lord JOHN MANNERS: It is perfectly safe.] That might be; but there were great complaints about the state of the water. He believed that in stagnant water there should be considerable depth to obtain what was called an under-current; and that the growth of water plants should be encouraged to absorb the noxious gases. If bathing establishments were to be erected in the metropolis, the very-worst place in which they could be established was the Serpentine. The late Committee obtained a large Vote for the purposes of carrying out improvements founded upon scientific evidence. The House and the public would do well to see the contract then entered into faithfully carried out. To carry out the views of the hon. and gallant Member who made this Motion (Captain Grosvenor) he thought would be most objectionable as far as the interests of the general public were concerned.
said, he had visited the place the other day, and that he had come to the conclusion that the mud which he saw sticking there ought to be removed. Those, however, who went to bathe in the Serpentine ought, he thought, to be able to take care of themselves. There was a humane Society close at hand; and, in short, everything to accommodate those who wished to be drowned. Men went into the Serpentine and got glasses of brandy, hoping to see their names mentioned in The Times the next morning; but since they found their names were not inserted the numbers had decreased. The slopes at the side had, in his opinion, been very well executed, and all that was required was a sufficient coating of gravel. [An hon. MEMBER: The depth is to be 14 feet.] Well, a man could be drowned in three feet of water as well as in 14 feet, as he could assure the House from his own experience. He recollected skating in the old days, when there was a round circle at the end of the skates, and having got into the water he found he could not get up, so that he had never been so near being drowned in the whole course of his life. The fact was that if a person got under water with skates it mattered very little what the depth was. He thought there was a great deal of humbug about this question. The great thing, in his opinion, would be to have a stream of water through the Serpentine, for by that means its purity would be best secured.
said, he did not in the least complain of his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Westminster (Captain Grosvenor), or of the hon. Member for the Isle of "Wight (Mr. Baillie Cochrane), for having brought the subject forward, because he was of opinion that the treatment of the public parks was a question which ought not to be altogether disposed of by metropolitan Members, seeing that the expenditure upon them was paid out of the national funds for what might very fairly be regarded as national objects. He wished, however, to make one or two remarks, not to justify himself, for he had no need of justification, but his Predecessor in Office, who had really made the contract which was the subject of the present discussion, and for which a grant had been made last Session. The subject was one which had engaged the attention of the Board of Works for the last 15 years. Lord Llanover, who at the commencement of that period occupied the position which he had the honour to hold, considered the question, and had arrived at the conclusion that it was not necessary to remove from the bed of the Serpentine the immense accumulation of mud which had collected there for many years. The matter was again under consideration in 1859, and the opinion of Mr. Hawksley, the eminent engineer, was taken upon it, who came to the same conclusion. Subsequently the noble Lord the Member for North Leicestershire (Lord John Manners) took up the question with the advantage of the investigations which had previously been made. He examined all the different plans, and he, too, was of opinion that it was wholly unnecessary to remove all the mud. His immediate Predecessor in Office decided that the Report of Mr. Fowler, another eminent engineer, was one which ought to be adopted, and he had submitted a contract, after a careful analysis of the circumstances, which had been sanctioned by the Vote of the House last Session. By that contract it was provided that there should be a gradual slope at the side of the water of from one foot to six, thus allowing an ample space for the purposes of safe bathing for persons of any size. There was also to be a gradual slope from one end of the water to the other to the depth of 14 feet. The contract wont on without any difficulty for a considerable period. But during the earlier part of the Session he had stated that the work was one of considerable difficulty, and he believed he was the first to throw doubts upon the likelihood of those difficulties being overcome. The operation of drying the mud was carried on slowly during the winter months, and with greater ease as the weather became warmer. The engineer had permission to extend the contract if he found its performance was hindered by the weather; but, finding that it was not completed within what he regarded as a reasonable time, he called upon the engineer to fix a time for its completion. The answer which he received was not in his opinion sufficiently precise, and he intimated that steps must be taken to secure the execution of the work. The consequence was that he received a reply a few days since stating, in point of fact, that the contractor had failed to perform his contract. If the contract had been duty executed, it would have been sufficient that the mud after being dried should be coated with gravel and clay. Finding however, that the contract could not be earned out, he had given instructions that it should be performed in what appeared to be the only practicable way—by removing the mud entirely and substituting an equivalent of gravel and clay, a process that would, however, entail an additional expenditure of £5,500, which would await the sanction of the Treasury and the House, but he had no doubt of obtaining the necessary amount. Now he might mention that it was not a very easy thing to fill up the Serpentine in the manner proposed by his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Westminster. To get sufficient material from the Park itself, to reduce the depth from 14 feet to five or six, would require the excavation of nearly as large a space as the Serpentine itself, and if the material were carted in from outside the operation was not one that would be carried out with any great rapidity, nor was it one that it was desirable to undertake while the bed of the Serpentine was empty. The cost of such a work was at first roughly estimated by the engineer at £18,000; but on further consideration that gentleman had written him, and, after retracting that estimate, had said he did not believe that the work could be done for less than £28,000. But, in any case, the work if done at all could just as well be done when the Serpentine was full as it could now. Now, two reasons were assigned for the necessity of this work. It was said that people who bathed might possibly be drowned; but he did not believe that the depth of six feet suggested by his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Westminster would be safe to all, while for some distance from the shore the Serpentine would under the present arrangement be shallow enough to suit everybody, and if it were necessary to take any precaution, that could easily be done by putting a railing or chain beneath the water to prevent people venturing into depths which were dangerous. But it would be well for the House to consider, before it pledged itself in the manner proposed, whether it was advisable to continue on the banks of the Serpentine a system of bathing which was at once indecent, disgusting, and obscene. He had certainly witnessed much in Asia and Africa; but he had never seen anything which could approach to the obscenity exhibited in this direction. If the Serpentine were to be reserved as a bathing-place for the inhabitants of the neighbourhood it was well to consider whether the expenditure required ought not to be defrayed by those who were more immediately benefited instead of being placed on the public Exchequer. He believed, however, that there ought to be no difficulty in drawing up an adequate scheme of public bathing — a scheme by which the wealthier few should pay and the others enjoy the luxury they so much coveted free of expense. At all events, he would submit that it was extremely desirable that the House of Commons should declare that they were to have this system of public bathing not confined to one portion of the Serpentine, but spread, as the Resolution of his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Westminster seemed to contemplate, all over this piece of ornamental water. He thought that in the next Session the subject might well be considered carefully. The danger which it was said would arise in the winter occurred to two or three people in one or two years, who persisted upon going on the ice in spite of all warning, and the House ought to consider whether it should incur this large expenditure in order to meet the requirements of those eccentric people. [Laughter.] He certainly did call them eccentric. If he found that the ice was rotten, he should refrain from going on, and so, he thought, would most rational people. What they ought to do was to take upon themselves, as guardians of the Parks, to prevent people going on the ice unless it was safe — a thing which it was not at all difficult to ascertain. There was, however, danger of a different character in a piece of water of uniform shallowness by the formation of noxious growths, which could only be prevented by inequalities of depth. With that object, and on the strength of scientific opinion, the bottom of the Serpentine had been arranged. In St. James's Park it had been found necessary to draw off the water every year and scour the bed, and, though this process had not been found very difficult or expensive in the case of St. James's Park, it would be a serious matter if they had to pursue the same course in the case of the Serpentine. The same result had been found to attend the lowering the depth of the water in Regent's Park, and he had already received complaints upon that subject. He trusted that the House would not immediately and precipitately express an opinion upon this subject, especially as the work, if done at all, could as well be done later as now. He hoped the hon. and gallant Member for Westminster would be satisfied in knowing that there would be a solid bed to the Serpentine composed of gravel and clay, and that he would be content to leave the other questions to be considered hereafter if necessary, so as to meet the requirements of the times.
said, in reference to the ornamental water in the Regent's Park, great complaints had been made respecting the arrangements made after the lamentable accident which occurred there about three years ago. The fact, however, was that the arrangements agreed upon had never been carried out. It was intended that the depth of the water should be 5 feet in summer, in order to prevent it becoming stagnant, and 4 feet in winter to prevent accidents to skaters; but the medical officer of Marylebone, Mr. Whitmore, reported on the 8th of the current month to the following effect:—
That gentleman recommended, as he had himself formerly proposed, that the depth should be increased to 5 feet in the summer time. He did not wish to enter into the question of the Serpentine. The right hon. Gentleman had given a correct sketch of its history, with one exception, as he had made no allusion to the full and able Report made in 1858 or 1859 by Mr. Page, and laid upon the Table of the House. Mr. Page recommended that the mud should be applied to the formation of an island, which should screen the present ugly eastern end of the lake. With respect to the right hon. Gentleman's statement as to the works proposed to be executed, he was not inclined to find any fault with it."On my inspection of the mains yesterday afternoon I went over every part of it, and nowhere could I find a greater depth than 4 feet, while in many places the depth was only 3 feet 6 inches."
said, that if any justification of this Motion were required the speeches of the present and of the late First Commissioner of Works would furnish it in abundance. The right hon. Gentleman had stated that the present works in the Serpentine were undertaken after 15 years of consideration, at the end of which time a contract was entered into that did not include the removal of the mud. A great public agitation was raised on this point, and now the First Commissioner admitted that the public were right, and that the mud ought to be removed. The public also desired that the Serpentine should be less than 14 feet deep, and the only reason for not complying with that wish was the cost of partially filling tip the river: 500,000 persons bathed there in the season, and as bathing in the Serpentine could not be stopped, the river might as well be rendered as safe for bathers as the ornamental water in the Regent's Park was for skaters. He thought that if the public were to agitate a little more his right hon. Friend would give way.
said, that with a little more pressure the public would get from the Chief Commissioner all they required. To retain the mud in the Serpentine would be to continue the place one of great danger. He was glad to find that £5,000 was to be expended in removing the mud. As the Chancellor of the Exchequer had £300,000 or £400,000 surplus this year, and as he was paying off the National Debt at the rate of £5,000,000 or £6,000,000 per annum, the House might well consider I the advisability of voting £20,000 for making the Serpentine safe for recreation of those Londoners who took their pastime therein.
said, that because a few persons were drowned in the sea every year from bathing they might as well call upon Government to make sea bathing safe as to call upon it to make the Serpentine safe for those who chose to bathe in it.
The House divided:—Ayes 46; Noes 149: Majority 103.
Motion For An Address
, in rising to call the attention of the House to the case of Richard Fennelly, convicted of Bribery at the last Election for Bridgwater, and of the circumstances under which he was induced to confess his participation in such Bribery, and was, notwithstanding, refused a Certificate of Indemnity; and to move a Resolution, said, he proposed to confine himself to this point—that, the House having created an extraordinary tribunal for discovering the secrets of corrupt practices, the Commissioners who were sent down to examine into the election at Bridgwater were mistaken in the course they pursued in not examining Mr. Fennelly and giving him a certificate. Mr. Fennelly had been examined by the secretary to the Commissioners, Mr. Purcell, and he afterwards wrote to them to say that, being under the impression that that gentleman had authority to examine him, he had given him all the information he required, with the firm belief that he was to be afterwards examined by the Commissioners themselves. The Commissioners, however, had not examined him, and it was greatly to be deplored that they did not adhere to the ordinary rule in such cases and hear both sides. The consequence had been that Mr. Fennelly had been refused a certificate, and that he had been prosecuted by the Attorney General. It was true it was stated by the Commissioners that they had never given any authority to their secretary to convey to Mr. Fennelly the idea that they intended to examine him; but it was clear that the influence of the secretary had induced him to make a confession of guilt, and there was, therefore, an implied understanding that having made that confession he would not be prosecuted. Mr. Fennelly under those circumstances had, he contended, a right to expect that he would be protected; and, when the matter had afterwards come before the Court of Queen's Bench, Mr. Justice Blackburn said that the point was one rather for the decision of the Secretary of State. One could not tell what might be the result of an application to the Secretary of State; but he thought that before deciding in such a matter the Secretary of State ought to hear the opinion of that House; and the House ought to see that a conviction had not been obtained by means which were in any way questionable. He moved the Address of which he had given Notice.
, in seconding the Motion, said it appeared from the correspondence that the letter of Mr. Gould the acting secretary to Mr. Fennelly had been written with the knowledge of the Commissioners. Mr. Gould distinctly stated that it had been. In that letter Mr. Fennelly was told that he would be examined.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
"That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that She may be graciously pleased to grant a free pardon to Richard Fennelly."—(Mr. M'Mahon.)
said, the extraordinary conduct of the secretary to the Commission led him to doubt whether they might not apply to the authorities on the Treasury Bench for some modification of the position of Mr. Fennelly.
said, that no one but an Attorney General could appreciate the difficulties of a prosecution for bribery. If everyone who was examined, or who had been summoned for examination, received a certificate there would be very few prosecutions for bribery. He thought the granting of certificates ought to be a matter for the Commissioners; but what was now asked was that he or the Home Secretary should review the decision of the Commissioners in respect of the refusal to grant Mr. Fennelly a certificate. But the Commissioners denied that they had caused Mr. Fennelly to be informed that he would be examined as as a witness. The Commissioners stated on oath that they gave no authority express or implied to their secretary to give any pledge or assurance to Mr. Fennelly that he would be examined, and that their secretary never communicated nor suggested to them that he had given Mr. Fennelly any pledge or assurance to that effect. In his belief, Mr. Fennelly gave but very partial disclosures, almost all of which went, as far as they did go, in his own favour, and the case against him had been proved by the evidence of independent witnesses. His belief was that the Commissioners had acted in a perfectly right way, and had exercised a wise discretion in doing what they had done. He, for one, could not undertake to say that Mr. Fennelly ought to have had a certificate, or that his sentence had been too severe. The matter now rested with the Home Secretary; but he was bound to state that he did not himself see any ground for interfering with the sentence.
said, he thought the Attorney General had, with more than his usual skill, evaded the question. The Commissioners guarded themselves by saying they gave no instructions to their secretary to examine Mr. Fennelly; but they did authorize their secretary to conduct a preliminary inquiry by putting questions to persons who were to give evidence which might criminate themselves, and they could not be exonerated from the consequences of their secretary's acts. He maintained that the Commissioners through their secretary constructively examined Mr. Fennelly, and that they were bound by what he had done.
said, the memorial addressed to him to induce him to recommend Her Majesty to extend her prerogative of mercy to the person who had been the subject of this discussion was of a very unusual character, being signed by upwards of 100 Members of Parliament. Such a memorial would, of course, demand very careful consideration. That consideration he had given to it; but he had arrived at the conclusion that the gentlemen who signed it were not fully alive to the facts of the case. There could be no doubt that Mr. Fennelly had been guilty of gross bribery—bribery for which the punishment inflicted was not too severe. It should be remembered that the Commissioners stated that the reasons which induced them to refuse Mr. Fennelly his certificate were entirely independent of his statement to Mr. Purcell. The evidence on which Mr. Fennelly was convicted was entirely independent, as Mr. Justice Hannen had stated to him, of evidence which he had furnished. It was, of course, possible for the House to overrule the decision which he had arrived at, a decision which he believed was necessary to meet the justice of the case; but if that decision were overruled the responsibility should rest with the House, and not with himself.
moved the adjournment of the debate.
seconded the Motion.
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned.'—( Mr. Montague Guest.)
appealed to the hon. Member to withdraw his Motion, as he thought the question could be decided at once.
said, he would withdraw his Motion on the understanding that the House would at once divide on the original Motion.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
observed that in matters of this nature he felt disposed to attach pre-eminent importance to the opinions of Her Majesty's Government, who must, of course, be in the best possible position to arrive at a just decision. After the statement which the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department had so fully and fairly laid before the House, he should certainly give his support to Her Majesty's Government.
Original Question put.
The House divided:—Ayes 41; Noes 63: Majority 22.
Local Government Supplemental (No 4) Bill
On Motion of Mr. KNATCHBULL-HUGESSEN, Bill to confirm certain Provisional Orders under the Local Government Act, 1858, relating to the districts of Barton, Eccles, Winton and Morton, Bognor, Bolton (2), Chippenham, Harrogate, Merthyr Tydvil, Ryde, Stroud, and Worthing; and for other purposes relative to certain districts under the said Act, ordered to be brought in by Mr. KNATCHBULL-HUGESSEN and Mr. Secretary BRUCE.
Bill presented, and read the first time. [Bill 226.]
Foreign Enlistment Bill
On Motion of Mr. ATTORNEY GENERAL, Bill to prevent the enlisting or engagement of Her Majesty's Subjects to serve in Foreign Service, and the building, fitting out, or equipping in Her Majesty's Dominions Vessels for warlike purposes without Her Majesty's licence, ordered to be brought in by Mr. ATTORNEY GENERAL, Mr. SOLICITOR GENERAL, and Mr. Secretary BRUCE.
Bill presented, and read the first time. [Bill 228.]
Epping Forest Bill
On Motion of Mr. GLADSTONE, Bill for dis" afforesting that part of Waltham called the Forest of Epping, settling the rights of the Lords of the Manors and the Commoners of such Forest, and appropriating certain portions thereof to the use of the Public, ordered to be brought in by Mr. GLADSTONE, Mr. CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER, and Mr. ATRTON.
Bill presented, and read the first time. [Bill 227.]
Greenwich Hospital Bill
On Motion of Mr. WILLIAM HENRY GLADSTONE, Bill to amend the Law relating to the repayment to the Consolidated Fund of money expended for the benefit of Greenwich Hospital, ordered to be brought in by Mr. WILLIAM HENRY GLADSTONE, Mr. STANSFELD, and Mr. BAXTER.
Bill presented, and read the first time. [Bill 229.]
Militia Pay Bill
On Motion of Mr. DODSON, Bill to continue an Act to defray the Charge of the Pay, Clothing, and contingent and other Expenses of the Disembodied Militia in Great Britain and Ireland; to grant Allowances in certain cases to Subaltern Officers, Adjutants, Paymasters, Quartermasters, Surgeons, Assistant Surgeons, and Surgeons Mates of the Militia; and to authorise the employment of the Non-commissioned Officers, ordered to be brought in by Mr. DODSON, Mr. Secretary CARDWELL, and Captain VIVIAN.
Canada Defences (Guarantee Of Loan) Bill
"That it is expedient to authorise the Commissioners of Her Majesty's Treasury to guarantee the payment of the principal and interest of a Loan of £1,100,000 sterling, such interest not to exceed four per centum per annum, to be raised by the Government of Canada for the construction of Fortifications in that Country; and to provide for the payment out of the Consolidated Fund of such sum or sums of money as shall be required from time to time for giving effect to the said Guarantee."
Resolution agreed to: — Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. DODSON, Mr. CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER, and Mr. STANSFELD.
Bill presented, and read the first time. [Bill 225.]
Dividends And Stock Bill
Lords Amendment considered, and disagreed to.
Committee appointed, "to draw up Reasons to be assigned to The Lords for disagreeing to the
Amendment to which this House hath disagreed:"—Mr. STANSFELD, Mr. ATRTON, Mr. GLYN, Mr. ADAM, and Mr. W. H. GLADSTONE:—To withdraw immediately; Three to be the quorum.
Reason for disagreeing to Lords Amendment reported, and agreed to:—To be communicated to The Lords.
House adjourned at a quarter before Three o'clock.