of The Tablet's first edition
Monday, May 11
On the motion of the Bishop of LONDON, the Church Building Acts Amendment Bill was read a third time and passed.
ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE. The LORD CHANCELLOR, in calling their lordships' attention to the bill for the better administration of justice, gave a history of the great increase of business in the courts of equity, and stated, that the average number of cases before the appointment of the Vice-Chancellor was 562, while during the last five years the average had been 1,248, from which he inferred that, if facilities were given to suitors, the business of the courts would be considerably increased, and adequate provision should, therefore, be made to meet that increase. The progress of a cause was necessarily slow. It generally came twice up to the Chancellor for hearing before it was terminated. It was first brought forward for hearing, and then it was referred to the master. It was then set down for further directions, and thus again came before the judges - every cause consequently came up twice for hearing. He had ascertained from returns obtained from the Vice-Chancellor's Court, that each cause in working its way up to hearing was, on an average, three years, which made it six years before it was concluded. When it reached the first period of three years nothing was progressive in it, every thing ceased except the expenses to the suitor, which still went on. Six years were thus consumed in each cause. Now this appeared to him to be a denial of justice (hear), for which their lordships were required to give a remedy. People compromised their rights, they did almost anything rather than go into a court of justice where so long a delay took place. Having said thus much on this part of the case, with respect to the increase of business and the delay which took place, he would proceed to notice the vast increase of the funds in the court of Chancery, known under the name of the Suitors' Fund. The Suitors' Fund consisted not only of money and property the subject of litigation, but also the property of lunatics, infants, and cestique trusts. Now, in the year 1802, the money so entered amounted to £19,908,441, and for the year 1839 (it had increased upwards of £20,000,000) the amount was £41,564,000. Since 1802 that fund had actually more than doubled in amount. This was, indeed, an immense sum of money to be in a court of justice. There had also been an increase of appeals to a considerable extent since Lord Hardwicke's time. Additional business had also arisen in consequence of the railroads, Nothing had tended more to keep the property of individuals from being properly invaded by speculations of that description that the proceedings to which parties were obliged to have recourse in the Court of Chancery. Every public speculation, indeed, led to Chancery proceedings, and consequently the business of the court was thereby increased and burdened. It was essential to the interests of the community - to the due administration of justice - that means should be taken to put the people in a position by which they could procure justice. The noble lord then proposed some alterations, of which the following are the chief - That there shall be two new judges in Chancery - that there should be one new master in Chancery - that the Master of the Rolls should be permanently vice president of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council - that this committee should have the power of calling on the fifteen judges for this opinion - and that the equity jurisdiction of the Court of Exchequer should be abolished.
Lord LYNDHURST, in seconding the second reading of the bill, threw out several doubts as to the propriety of some of the propositions it contained. He thought it inconvenient to take the Master of the Rolls away from his court to sit at the Privy Council; he also thought that one additional judge would be sufficient, and that at all events it would be time enough to appoint two when it should be ascertained that one was insufficient. He also doubted the propriety of the abolition of the equity jurisdiction of the Court of Exchequer, though he had himself brought in a bill for that purpose some years ago, which met with such strenuous opposition from Lord Eldon and Lord Redesdale, that he was forced to abandon it. He quite agreed in the principle of the bill, and threw these observations out not so much as objections to the details, but rather as matters which would require their lordships' most grave consideration.
After a few observations from Lords ABINGER, LANGDALE, and WYNFORD, the bill was read a second time, and their lordships adjourned.
OPIUM TRADE. Earl STANHOPE, after the presentation of various petitions on the subject, brought forward the motion of which he had given notice, respecting the opium trade with China. His lordship stated that, as far as the Chinese government was concerned, its policy had been invariably directed towards the suppression of the trade, and had not been as was alleged, prohibitory in theory, yet permissive in fact. His lordship concluded by moving - "That an humble address be presented to her Majesty, to express to her Majesty the deep concern of this house in learning that an interruption has occurred in the friendly relations and commercial intercourse which had so long subsisted with the Chinese empire; and to represent to her Majesty that these calamities have, in the opinion of this house, been occasioned by British subjects having persevered in bringing opium to China, in direct and known violation of the laws of that empire; and to request that her Majesty will be graciously pleased to take immediate measures for the prevention of such proceedings, which are so dishonourable to the character and so detrimental to the interests of her subjects; and to assure her Majesty, that if any additional powers should be found requisite for the purpose, this house will readily concur in granting them to her Majesty."
Viscount MELBOURNE, in reply to the noble lord, said that the address would not produce the effect the noble mover intended. The noble lord asked the Government to put an end to any hostilities which were begun or which were likely to take place. He should have considered, however, whether there was any ground for supposing that this address, if agreed, would produce any such effect as that which he expected, or whether it would not, in fact, produce an effect entirely different, or whether such an interference in the matter would not produced an injurious effect, not only on the pending hostilities, but on any negotiations which might take place. He would beg the noble lord to consider whether this address would have any tendency to put an end to the trade in smuggling opium into China, and whether it was not an imprudent and unwise course to hold out expectations by this address, that they would do that which they might be wholly unable to effect, by pledging themselves to put an end to that trade which had led to the disagreement between this country and China. Now, let their lordships look at the state of the case, and see if there was any chance of such an address having the intended effect. He was very sorry for the extensive use of opium in China; he was very sorry than an intoxicating drug should be used to excess. Without thinking it necessary to go as far as total abstinence, he was undoubtedly an advocate for temperance in the consumption of stimulating drugs, and in restricting its use to such salutary limits, he would go as far as the noble earl. He was extremely sorry that the trade in opium had grown up to such an extent, and he must say he was very sorry, although there was no fault to be imputed, he felt some concern and regret that by the mode of cultivation, by its being completely under Government protection, by its being carried on under licence from the Government, and being exported by the same authority, the Government was in some degree identified with the propagation and use of opium. At the same time, while he did not defend these proceedings, he was not prepared to pledge the Government to an immediate alteration of them, or the discontinuance of the monopoly under existing circumstances. Still, it was the duty of their lordships to consider the state of the question. Here was a great empire, immense in its extent, and still more immense, if the accounts were correct, in its population, in which the demand and desire for this drug were almost universal and unlimited. We had great territories of our own, in which there was an unlimited power of producing the poppy from which its cultivation might be increased to an unlimited degree. Now, even if we limited the growth of opium in our own dominions, how could be put a stop to it in these independent states? Opium was the greatest and most powerful medicine, and was the one of which he believed a physician would be most reluctantly deprived. Now, if we wished its production for medicinal purposes, how could we check it along the whole line of the Indus, and other extensive districts where it was grown? And, if it were so to be had, the noble earl could not suppose that the traders in it, who were as adventurous as any traders in the world, would not engage themselves in carrying it to a market where they had found it so profitable. He begged leave to say, that whatever opinion their lordships might have as to the measures now about to be taken, he thought they would hardly interfere with them by such an address, which must be taken as a condemnation of all that had been done, a complete vindication of the Chinese - a complete declaration in their favour, and which must have the effect of anticipating one of the principal terms which this country had to offer, supposing that what was now taking place should lead, as he hoped it would, to a speedy negotiation and arrangement with the empire of China. By that address, their lordships would throw away the principal means of gaining an advantage in the negotiations between the two countries. He thought the address itself was hardly fair in its terms, and the inferences to be drawn from them. He did not think that the relations between this country and China could properly be designated, as the address designated them, as very friendly, or our commercial intercourse as being very intimate. The address proceeded to say, that the calamities which had occurred had been occasioned by the obstinate perseverance of British subjects in violation of the laws of the Chinese empire. He admitted that the interruption of trade had been occasioned by the dealings in opium, which brought the matter to a crisis; but he thought the extent to which that trade had been carried, was occasioned by the connivance of the Chinese authorities.
The DUKE OF WELLINGTON said he felt as strongly as the noble viscount that the objections to the interference of that house in a question of this description; and he was, therefore, disposed to hope the house would vote the previous question. He desired to give no opinion as to the course which ought to be followed with respect to the negociations in China - whether or not, in the course of the discussions which had taken place, the Chinese government and authorities were in the right, and her Majesty's servants - the superintendent of trade in China, and the Government at home - were in the wrong. He might be prepared with a knowledge of all the facts which the papers before their lordships contained; but he did not know the course intended to be pursued - he did not know the means for pursuing it - he was ignorant of the resources which would be brought to bear, in order to avenge the insults which had been given to the Government, and the injuries which had been done to the people of this country; and therefore, he said, he intreated their lordships not to give a vote upon the occasion - being determined himself, if he could not prevail upon them to vote the previous question, to give no vote at all in the present instance, because he would neither, on the one hand, pledge himself to an approval of carrying on war or warlike operations, not knowing the means which were possessed for carrying them on; nor, on the other hand, would he advise her Majesty and the country to submit to insults such as, he believed, had never before been inflicted on any person charged with the administration of public functions, but which insults her Majesty's superintendent of trade in that country, and which injuries persons residing under the protection of a foreign government, had suffered on the part of the Chinese authorities. It was perfectly true, as stated by the noble lord, that the trade in opium was carried on contrary to the law of China, but it was carried on with the perfect knowledge of the local authorities at the spot where it was so practised. They received large payments either by way of bribes or duties, or possibly both, for the importation of opium, for its admission into the ports of China. He could not exactly see the force of the arguments with regard to the illegality of the trade, when it was as clear as possible that it was known to the government of China, and that no steps whatever were taken to put it down, but, on the contrary, that measures for continuing it, and requiring larger duties for carrying it on, had been under consideration, and that, in point of fact, the trade was finally put down and discontinued, because it was supposed that it occasioned the export of large quantities of what was called sycee silver - the native silver of the country. But with respect to the trade in opium, so far as British subjects were concerned, their lordships must look at it in another point of view. It was a trade perfectly well known to the Government of India - perfectly well known in Parliament - perfectly well known to the servants and the Government of the East-India Company, and to those who preceded the existing members of the administration of her Majesty's affairs. He had sat upon a committee of the House of Lords to inquire into this branch of trade, and had heard the opinions expressed upon the subject, and had seen that it was a great object that this very trade, the trade in opium, should be continued after the monopoly of the East-India Company should have been done away with. Questions had been put to witnesses to ascertain whether there was any possibility of extending our trade, and particularly in this branch of opium; and in the report of a committee of the House of Commons it was particularly observed upon as being desirable that it should be continued. Really, under these circumstances, it was a little hard to turn round upon these men and say, "You have been guilty of an offence, for which you shall not only be punished by the loss of your property, but shall be absolutely abandoned - you have been the cause of this war and great misfortune, and you never shall have any protection whatever." To such a proceeding as that, he for one would not be a party. He said he wanted to see what had immediately caused this war. He saw very clearly that it could not be the opium. (Cheers.) The noble duke proceeded to dwell upon the gross insults which had been offered to Capt. Elliott, and contended that one of the causes of the war was his refusal to give up an Englishman to certain death, because a Chinese had lost his life in an affray.
After a short discussion, in which Lords LYTTLETON, ELLENBOROUGH, and ASHBURTON took part, the previous question was agreed to without a division, and the house adjourned.
Thursday, May 14.
The House was occupied until nine o'clock in hearing Sir C. Wetherell as counsel for the parties opposed to the Irish Municipal Corporation Bill.
Monday, May 11
The Eastern Counties Railway Bill was thrown out by a majority of 137.
RATING STOCK IN TRADE - Sir R. PEEL, having pointed out the anomalous state of things as regarded the imposing of a rate on stock in trade, in consequence of the decision of the Court of Queen's Bench that stock in trade was legally liable to be rated, inquired whether it was the Attorney-General's intention to recommend any course to the Government for the purpose of remedying that which might endanger the validity of rates all over the country; amounting to £7,000,000?
The ATTORNEY-GENERAL answered that he had not been able to see Lord J. Russell, but he could have no hesitation in declaring that it was his intention to recommend the bringing in of a bill to legalize what had long been the practice all over the country, to exempt stock in trade from the rates.
LUDLOW ELECTION - The Earl of DARLINGTON having been called on by the Speaker to proceed with his motion for a new writ for this borough.
Mr. E.J. STANLEY said, as the noble lord had not given any reply to a request he had made in the morning, he would repeat the request in his place in that house, and it was whether he would consent that his motion for a new writ for Ludlow should be fixed for Thursday, the same as that already fixed for the discussion on the writ for Cambridge? He asked with the more confidence, as the honourable baronet, the member for Sudbury, had consented to postpone his motion for Cambridge, in consequence of the necessary absence of his noble friend, the minister for the colonies, till Thursday.
The Earl of DARLINGTON said, the only reason assigned by the honourable gentleman was, the absence of the noble lord (Lord J. Russell), and the answer which he gave to that was, that he had given full notice on Friday that he would move the writ that day, and if the noble lord had wished to take part in that discussion, he would have communicated his wish by note, or privately, through the honourable gentleman. When the honourable gentleman called on him, he would give no answer to the question whether the noble lord would oppose the motion, and there was no reason assigned for the postponement.
After an attempt at explanation by Mr. E.J. STANLEY, which Mr. GOULBURN interrupted, Lord DARLINGTON, amidst loud cries of "adjourn", proceeded to move the writ, and the motion was seconded by Mr. WILSON PATTEN.
Mr. WARBURTON moved that the further consideration of the question be adjourned till Thursday.
Mr. WAKLEY seconded the amendment. A more infamous case of bribery and treating was never presented to that house.
Sir ROBERT PEEL must say, that the suspension of the writ would be a very dangerous precedent. "It was known that the Ludlow case was fixed for that day, and no reference had been made to it; and now, when they approached the discussion, an objection was taken that the noble lord, the Secretary of the Colonies, was absent, who, he thought, in matters of this kind, was only to be considered as an individual member. (Hear.) For what time was it now proposed that the writ should be suspended? (Hear, Hear.) Was it to be withheld until the bill proposed to be introduced by the noble lord has passed? (Hear, hear.) Could it be contended that in such a case they should suspend the writ until the House of Lords had concurred with that house in passing a measure upon the subject?" On Thursday, the Cambridge writ would be discussed, and on that day the noble lord might state his views on the possibility of putting a stop to the system of bribery and treating carried on.
Lord PALMERSTON did not seek for the suspension, either temporary or permanent, of the writ for the borough of Ludlow, but supported the amendment on the ground upon which an appeal had been already made by his honourable friend to the noble lord opposite, and the great anxiety expressed by the noble lord, the Secretary for the Colonies, to be present at the discussion. There were many occasions on which that had been done. All that was asked for was a postponement of three days.
The house divided -
The original motion that the writ should issue was then put from the chair.
Mr. WAKLEY said, he for one was prepared to go to any length to prevent the issuing of the writ, and if any twenty members would assist him, he would take especial care to use any forms warranted by the house to oppose the motion. He accordingly moved as an amendment, that the house should adjourn.
Mr. BRISCOE seconded the amendment.
The gallery was cleared for a division, but none took place.
Lord PALMERSTON condemned the conduct of the noble earl (Darlington) in departing from the ordinary courtesies which prevailed in that house.
Mr. HORSMAN said, in such a case as this, there should be a total absence of party feeling.
Lord SANDON denied that any case had been made out of general corruption.
Some further discussion took place, and the house divided -
For the adjournment .....123
Mr. C. BULLER said, that the system of corruption in Ludlow was the very worst way in which corruption could be carried on. The system of debauchery and drunkenness at our elections was a disgrace to England. He had embodied his views on this subject in the same of an amendment, which might perhaps startle the house; but what he wished was, that, if it was intended to put up a borough for sale, they should do so publicly - they should put it up for sale for money, and not for sale for bread to be bestowed on the voters. If money was to be spent in elections, it was not to be spent in making the electors of Ludlow drunk. His amendment was - "That the Speaker be directed to insert an advertisement in the public papers, stating that the vacant seat for the borough of Ludlow is for sale (a laugh), and that all persons desirous of bidding for the same do make their tenders to him before Monday next, and that payment must be in money or public securities, and not in beer or spirituous liquors." (A laugh.)
The amendment having being brought up,
The SPEAKER suggested to the hon. member to consider the effect of placing a motion of this sort on the journals of this house. (Cries of "withdraw it.")
Mr. C. BULLER said that, if there was any objection of form, of course he must bow to that.
Mr. HORSMAN said, that it was not his object to suspend the writ on the present occasion. What he would state was this, that he wished the noble lord at the head of her Majesty's Government, and the leader of the house, to be present when the subject was taken into consideration; and what he did complain of was this, that the noble lord had a distinct pledge from the opposite side of the house, that he should have due notice of this motion, and the right hon. gentleman (Sir Robert Peel) had not answered his (Mr. Horsman's) question, when he asked, had he received any notice? He concluded by moving, "That this debate be now adjourned."
Sir R. PEEL said, he understood the noble lord to ask for an engagement that the writ should not be moved for without notice being given. He might refer to the attendance of members to prove that notice was given. He thought notice given on Friday, permitting three days to intervene, sufficient to meet every attention. As to the noble lord's absence, he (Sir R. Reel) stated distinctly, that he did not think the absence of any man sufficient ground for refusing a writ.
The house divided. The numbers were:-
For the motion ......... 156
Mr. HORSMAN moving, as an amendment that "A select committee be appointed to inquire into the extent to which treating, bribery, and intimidation prevailed at the late a former elections for the borough of Ludlow, and that in the mean time the issuing of the writ be suspended."
The house again divided, and the numbers were:-
For the original motion ...... 148
Mr. HAWES now moved the adjournment once more, on which the house divided, and the numbers were:-
For the adjournment ....... 76
Finally, the motion for adjournment was agreed to, Sir R. PEEL declaring that no other public business should be proceeded with until the Ludlow writ was disposed of.
Tuesday, May 12
On the motion of Mr. STANLEY, a new writ was ordered for the borough of Armagh, in the room of Mr. Serjeant Currie, who had accepted the office of Master in Chancery in Ireland.
LUDLOW WRIT. The Earl of DARLINGTON renewed his motion of Monday night, for the issuing of a writ for Ludlow, stating that if he could find three members to support him, he should persevere, and stop all other business till that motion was decided.
Mr. STANLEY again said that he wished the subject to be deferred until Lord. J. Russell was present. He thought that this was an instance in which the issuing of the writ might fairly be postponed, bribery and treating having been proved to have taken place to an alarming extent at the last election for Ludlow.
Mr. HORSMAN having moving that a select committee be appointed to inquire into the extent of bribery and corruption that prevailed at the late and previous elections for the borough, and that pending the inquiry the writ be not issued;
The house divided, when the motion was lost, the numbers being:-
For it ........................ 180
Mr. WARBURTON then moved that the further consideration of the subject be deferred until Thursday next, to give time for the presence of Lord J. Russell in the house.
After some discussion, the house divided upon this motion, when the numbers were:-
Against it ............ 188
Mr. HAWES then moved the adjournment of the house, but it was finally arranged that the motion for the issue of the writ should be postponed until Thursday, on the understanding that no public business should be brought on in the interim. The house then adjourned.
Wednesday, May 13.
A vast number of petitions were presented upon a variety of subjects, but no public business was transacted. Amongst the petitions was one presented by Mr. Duncombe, from 16,000 inhabitants of Sheffield, agreed to at a public meeting, which contained six different requests, all of them important. The first was, that the house would address her Majesty to dismiss her present ministers (loud cheers), as they were no more worthy of the confidence of the crown or the people, than any Government formed during the last fifty years, and to pray her Majesty to choose a ministry who would make universal suffrage a cabinet question. The second request was, that the time of the house should not be wasted in long speeches (great cheering), or in party quarrels and contentions (continued cheering), as if they only met for the purpose of levying taxes which bore unduly upon the working classes. The next request was, that they would take measures to exclude professional lawyers from the house (great laughter), as it was their interest to confuse and make obscure the meaning of all law, which greatly contributed to their own profit. (Continued laughter). Next, as there were seventy-five volumes containing the statute laws of this country, which were too much for any man to digest during the course of a long life, they requested the house to cause the laws to cease to exist upon a given day, prior to which they should direct a new and compendious code of laws to be published, and placed in all courts for the administration of justice throughout the country, so that every one charged with an offence might easily know whether he was guilty or not. The next request was, that the house should enact a law for the exclusion of all heirs and descendants of those who were in the House of Peers, as they considered that the landed aristocracy were sufficiently represented in that house, so that the Commons' House might become, as it ought to be, the representatives of the people, and that they might no longer receive in return for their taxes only new poor law bastilles and prisons. The last request they made was, that the house would pass an act of amnesty for all past political offences. Mr. Duncombe presented also two petitions from six agricultural labourers of Fonthill, in Wiltshire. They stated that their wages were nine shillings a week, and that they had on an average five or six children, whom they were totally unable to support. In consequence of the high price of provisions, they were unable to purchase barley and potatoes, the average of the wages being only 2½d. per head per day, which was less than the cost of the keep of a dog. The parochial authorities of Fonthill had taken out warrants to distrain them for poor rates, and they had nothing to give but the tattered garments on their backs. One of their party had been sent to the house of correction for being unable to pay 16½d. Thursday, May 14.
In answer to a question from Mr. STRATFORD CANNING, Lord PALMERSTON said the present state of our relations with the Court of Persia was exactly the same as it was last year.
In answer to another question the noble lord said, that our mission at Erzeroum was ready to return to Persia as soon as the negotiations were completed. There was still a consular office at Tefliz, and he was not aware of any interruption of the trade between India and Persia.
LUDLOW ELECTION. The Earl of DARLINGTON moved the writ for Ludlow.
Lord J. RUSSELL would state at once that he did not mean to oppose the issuing of the writ, not because he did not think there was sufficient ground to induce the House to suspend the writ, or that he thought there were wanting precedents in good time for taking such a course. But "on the whole, looking at the evidence - looking at what was notorious with respect to other boroughs, and what had taken place at the last general election, he thought it would be more advisable if the House should proceed by some general measure to provide a further and better remedy against bribery and treating, rather than they should now, in this particular case, use what was the undoubted power of the House - a power which it had frequently exercised, but which certainly was a very strong power - of keeping below the proper number the members of that House, and refusing the electors of any particular place the right of sending members to represent their interests, and the enjoyment of the franchise to which they were legally entitled." He concluded with declaring that he should select an early day for further bringing the subject under the notice of the House.
The Earl of DARLINGTON, so far from differing from the noble lord as to the necessity of the measure announced by him, heartily concurred in it.
Mr. HAWES again moved as an amendment to the appointment of a Select Committee.
Sir R. PEEL said, with regard to bribery, there could not be a question that if they could make the law more stringent than it was they should do so. By widening the range of its inquiries, a committee might effect much in developing the practice of bribery.
After some discussion the House divided, and the numbers were,
For issuing the writ........ 182
On Sir JOHN WALSH moving the write for Cambridge, Mr. WARBURTON moved that it be suspended, and Mr. HAWES seconded the motion.
On a division, the writ was ordered by a majority of 162 to 75.
Mr. T. DUNCOMBE moved the discharge of John Joseph Stockdale and Thos. Burton Howard, which, after some discussion, was agreed to.