Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

man, after having consulted his solicitor, was unable to point out any means by which Mr. Butt could obtain his release. Mr. Butt next petitioned both Houses of Parliament; and from parliament he obtained the usual relief that was to say, no relief at all. At the time of the Coronation, when all the king's debtors were discharged, Mr. Butt expected that he should be included: but an exception was made against him, and he was not released. At length, both the defendants died, and Mr. Butt then applied to young Mr. Co. nant, who stated distinctly, that though the action was defended by his late father, the expenses were paid by the Treasury, and it was to that board, therefore, that Mr. Butt was indebted for the costs of the action. Here was a direct avowal that the Treasury had interfered in this action, and employed the public money to support a justice of the peace, against whom the action was brought. Another application having been made by Mr. Butt to the Treasury, he was told, that if he chose to take the benefit of the Insolvent Debtors' act, they would take no steps to prevent him. He would ask whether this fact did not furnish a convincing proof that the Treasury considered themselves the creditors? What right, he would ask, had the Treasury to pay the money in behalf of sir N. Conant? Their interference was a direct violation of the statute against maintenance; an offence, defined by Mr. Justice Blackstone, to be, the intermeddling in a suit, by furnishing money or other assistance to either party to prosecute or defend it. The Treasury at length consented to the discharge of Mr Butt, after this unfortunate gentleman had been confined 26 months and 14 days, for a debt which he had offered to pay.

The Solicitor-General.-He did not offer to pay it.

Mr. Hobhouse resumed. The solicitorgeneral denied, in a manner not the most courteous, that Mr. Butt had offered to pay the debt. He (Mr. H.) took the liberty to say that he had offered to pay it: but, whether he had or had not was immaterial to the main question. The main question was, the legality of the transaction; and he believed that even the learned solicitor with all the modest assurance which belonged to him, would not venture to stand up in his place, and assert that the Treasury could legally make itself the creditor of an individual, by paying the

expenses of a private suit. He had letters showing that Columbian bonds were offered in payment of the debt, at a time when the value of those securities was not impeached. He had felt it his duty to state this case at some length, that the House might mark its sense of the transaction, and prevent its recurrence; for, if the government could buy up individual debts, such a power might be grossly abused, and the public money might be applied to purposes of injustice and oppression.

The Solicitor-General said, that since the hon. member had mentioned the case on a former day, he had brought the correspondence between Mr. Butt and the Treasury, day after day in his pocket, which, he believed, would have satisfied the House that the Treasury had acted with the greatest moderation and forbearance to wards Mr. Butt. Today he had not brought down the letters in question, but he would state the nature of the transaction to the House. Mr. Butt, after having been convicted in the court of King's-bench, pub lished a most offensive libel upon lord Ellenborough and the marquis of Londonderry, which he caused to be placarded in all parts of the town. The secretary of state sent to sir N. Conant, desiring him to take measures to prevent the continuance of this nuisance. Sir N. Conant accordingly issued a warrant for the apprehension of Mr. Butt, and upon his refusal to give bail, Mr. Butt was committed to Newgate. Mr. Butt having been advised that the whole transaction was illegal, brought actions against sir N. Conant and Mr. Newman, the keeper of Newgate, in the court of Common Pleas, in order to try the legality of the warrant. The case was conducted on the part of sir N. Conant, not by the Treasury, but by sir N. Conant himself and his own solicitor. A special verdict was found, and a special case reserved, in consequence of the great importance of the question, involving, as it did, the legality of another transaction which had been much discussed in that House-he alluded to the well-known circular of lord Sidmouth. The case was elaborately argued in the court of Common Pleas, and the court, after much consideration, were of opinion, that the warrant was legal, and judgment consequently passed against Mr. Butt. As Mr. Butt could not pay the costs, which amounted to 500l. the secretary of state (thinking it extremely hard that they should fall

upon sir N. Conant and Mr. Newinan) | government, and which the court of wrote to the Treasury, requesting that they Common Pleas had declared to be permight be reimbursed. He would put it fectly legal. He must be permitted to the House whether there was any thing to state, that he thought the opinion irregular or improper in this transaction? of the court of Common Pleas, on the The hon. member had said, that Mr. Butt legality of holding persons to bail for had offered to pay the costs to sir N. libel, was quite as likely to be correct as Conant. If the hon. member knew, of that of the hon. member for Westminster, his own knowledge, that such an offer had much as he valued himself on his legal been made, he could not, of course, say knowledge. For his own part, he did not that it was not so; but he had made every believe that Mr. Butt had ever been in a inquiry, and the result certainly was, that condition to pay the costs. If he had no such offer had ever been made. Mr. tendered the money to sir N. Conant, and Butt had offered a warrant of attorney to that individual had refused to receive it, the lords of the Treasury, as a security for he ought to have immediately moved the the debt; and the result of this application court upon the subject. was, that the Treasury had declined the warrant of attorney, and granted his discharge without any condition. So far was Mr. Butt from having any just ground of complaint against the Treasury, that, in a letter addressed to the lords of the Treasury, he had expressed great gratitude for their moderation and forbearance.

Mr. Denman could not understand how the Treasury had a right to apply the public money to the buying up of the debts of an individual, and thereby to keep him in prison at their pleasure. He trusted that a proceeding like the present would not be repeated; as it gave to the government an unlimited power of oppression.

Mr. Hobhouse denied that the solicitorgeneral had taken the edge off the case. One point only he had made clear; and that was that the law had been violated; for he had not ventured to maintain that the Treasury had a right to pay the expenses of a private law-suit. He begged the House to consider what an engine of oppression such a power might become, if, when magistrates committed any act of injustice and oppression, the government could defend them out of the public purse. It was merely to say, that sir N. Conant and not the Treasury had defended the action in question. The learned solicitor had talked of the moderation and forbearance of the Treasury. Those qualities belonged only to the just exercise of power, but the Treasury had no just power. They had acted under an usurped au thority. It was absurd, therefore, to talk of their moderation and forbearance.

The Attorney General repeated the statement of the solicitor-general, and contended that the conduct of the Treasury was neither unjust nor illegal, in remunerating sir N. Conant for expenses which he had incurred, at the instance of

Mr. Hobhouse said, he had founded his opinion of its being illegal to hold individuals to bail on charges of libel, upon the authority of lord Camden; and trusted that the House would not attach too much weight to the counter decision of the court of Common Pleas, when he informed them, that in that court, for the first time since the Revolution, a judge had ventured to stand up for the character of the Judges who had tried the Seven Bishops, and to state, as Mr. Justice Park had done, that lord Camden had, in particular, pressed too hard upon the character of that wretch, Mr. Justice Allybone. He understood well what was meant by the sneer of the learned attorney-general; but he would tell him, that he did not think the opinion of the law-officers of the Crown, on a point where the liberty of the subject was concerned, to be worth that! [Snapping his fingers]. Every body knew for what purpose they were sent into that House; every body knew out of what wood it was that an attorney and solicitor-general were hacked. Ex quovis ligno fit Mercurius. It was not to be endured that they should turn out of their course to taunt the unlearned with ignorance of law, at the same time that they did not show any willingness to enlighten their darkness. perienced layman complained of any grievance which he conceived to have been offered to any of the king's subjects, it was the duty of the attorney and solicitorgeneral to show him, if they could, that he was mistaken in his opinion: not to taunt him with his ignorance of the subject. In the present case, nothing had dropped from the regular defenders of regular abuses, that at all went to establish the legality of the conduct of the Treasury. It had been stated, that their

If an unex

conduct was fair and proper; and much had been said about the hardship it would be on sir N. Conant to allow him to be a loser; but not once had it been stated that they had acted legally. No. He defied the hon. and learned gentlemen opposite to the proof upon that point; and let me tell them," continued Mr. H., "that I am confident I am right in this instance, because I am opposed to them. At the same time, I think it only fair to state, that my opinion rests, not upon any confidence in myself, but upon my distrust of them; and that I am not so much certain that I am in the right, as I have a tolerable assurance that they are in the wrong."

Ordered to lie on the table.

MIDDLESEX COUNTY COURT.] Mr. Lennard moved, "That a Select Committee be appointed to take into consideration the returns made to this House on the 24th of January 1821, from the county court of the county of Middlesex; and to report to this House whether the fees paid may not be diminished, and whether it may not be expedient for the county clerk to sit oftener in each week in the hundred of Ossulston, and to increase the number of sittings in the other hundreds where the court now sits."

Mr. Curwen objected to the motion, and maintained that not the slightest imputation could rest upon the barrister who, with so much ability, presided over the county court of Middlesex.

Mr. Grey Bennet was of opinion, that a committee could not be better employed that in inquiring into the establishment of this court, and whether it could not be improved and the salaries diminished. The House divided: Ayes 18. Noes

44.

[merged small][subsumed][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]

one, and he hoped that the motives which had induced him to bring it forward would not be misunderstood. It was not with British seamen that he would find fault: these he had always held in the highest estimation, and he hoped that nothing would occur to alter that good opinion of them. But he had no hesitation in saying, that since the commence ment of the peace, the admiralty had not used those powers with which they were vested, in the way that appeared to be most useful, either in promoting the interests of the country or the honour of the navy. He denied the most distant intention of casting any reflection upon the navy itself. That navy had been, and it always ought to be, the honour and glory of the country; and he hoped that the country would never forget, or fail to acknowledge, their gallant deeds. He looked upon the navy as the most important branch of our national defence: to it the country owed all its honour and glory; for the trophies of the army had been always the consequence of the triumphs of the navy. He held the characters of naval officers in the highest respect. He coupled with their names all that was gallant and manly; and he trusted that they would not look upon the present motion as in any way directed against them. He could have no feeling of hostility for such men. Nay. on the other hand, he wished to be considered their best friend. He wished that those who had really fought the battles of their country should get the ho nour and the reward due for such services, The conduct of the admiralty since the war had given great dissatisfaction; not only to the country, but to the officers of the navy themselves. Old and brave men, who had seen a great deal of service, and whose service and hardships in war entitled them to honour, had not met with that attention and reward which their merits deserved; for many officers who had entered the service long after the war, had been promoted over their heads. Now, he would contend, that if any thing was more degrading than another, or more hurtful to the feelings of a veteran officer, whether of the navy or the army, it was to see a junior, with perhaps no claim but family connection, put over his head-to see a youth removed and put over a man who had been his instructor and his commandant; nay, to see this very young man put in command over

him, and raised two or three steps above in other respects, but was of the same him, sometimes in the very ship where he opinion. There was no disposition in the had served. If he (Mr. H.) were correct, people to withhold a due reward for serin the instances he should state, they vices: but it was only to those, however, were an abuse of power on the part of the who had really served their country, that admiralty. If he was not correct in these, the reward should be given. The finance he should be very ready, on sufficient ex- committee had, in their report of 1816-17, planation and proof, to admit his error. calculated that the half-pay would deThe first fault he had to find with the ad- crease rapidly in time of peace: and it miralty was, that they had not, in time was the duty of the House to attend to of peace, employed those officers, who, the suggestions of that committee. At from the extent and importance of their the close of the war, there was a large services in war, had a fair claim for em- list of between 5,000 or 6,000 naval ployment, but had employed young men officers; and it was reasonably calculated in their stead; and not only in this, but that, from the long and hard services to they had failed also to give them their which many of them had been exposed, due share of the promotion which had the expense of that department would taken place. From this it appeared, at be rapidly decreased. If the expectations least the people would be very apt to say, which were then held out were not that they kept up the large establishment, realized, the House had a right to inquire and continued the promotions in the navy, into the causes. In order to show that not for the good of the country, but for this had not been the case, he would point the advantage of young men belonging out what had been our situation in 1793; to certain families. This ought not to be at the end of the war in 1816; and now, the case; the rewards of the navy, paid as to the number of officers-the numas they were out of the public money, ber, at the close of the war, was necessaought not to be given to young and inex-rily large, on account of the great numperienced men; but to those whose ser- ber of ships that had been in commission. vices had been of use to their country. In 1793, the number of officers stood as He wished to see the British navy in the follows :— high commanding attitude it had assumed until of late years; and he had no hesitation in stating, that many old and able officers entertained great doubts, whether the course now pursued would furnish officers in time of need, capable of maintaining the power and honour of the country. On these accounts he did not hesitate to say, that the admiralty were not taking the proper course, that they had not employed the proper means for continuing to the navy that character, and consequent power, which it ought always to hold. If these charges were not supported by facts, they would of course fall to the ground, and he should be ready to withdraw his motion. But, entertaining these opinions, he would not do his duty, if he had not brought forward that motion. If the expense of the navy had been necessarily great during the war, the public had a right to expect, that, with the termination of the war, the expense of the war would have ceased. He was ready, very ready to admit that the halfpay of the navy must, after so long and extensive a war, be large, and he was convinced that there was not a man in the country, however much he might blame the want of economy in the government

Admirals
Vice-Admirals
Rear-Admirals
Captains
Commanders
Lieutenants

....

10

19

...

19

444

160

.1409

2061 Officers.

Making a total of

In the year 1816, the numbers were,

Admirals
Vice-Admirals
Rear-Admirals
Captains
Commanders
Lieutenants.

....

Making a total of

67

68

75

850

803

3994

5857 Officers. Now the estimate held out was, that these would be annually reduced about 3 or 4 per cent, and that thus, in the 7 years which had elapsed since 1816, there would have been a reduction of nearly one-third. He would take it, however, at a fourth or a fifth. But instead of that proportion of reduction, there had not been a diminution of 1 per cent. The numbers on the list now were:Admirals ... Vice-Admirals Rear-Admirals

[merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]

which was a reduction only of about 310, instead of being between 900 and 1,000. From 1816 to 1823, there had been 965 steps of promotion, including 513 first commissions. He would not object to the 44 post-captains who had been raised to admirals, or the admirals who had been promoted, for he felt convinced, that they had all served for 23 or 24 years, and of these there had been only a few promoted. There had been no fewer than 513 promotions of midshipmen to be lieutenants, although at the close of the war, there were 3,994 lieutenants in the service; and the object of thus promoting so many midshipmen was stated to be, to bring into the service all those who were deserving, to bring in all those who had claims for service. This was so far well if it could be proved to have been the case; but it would require some better reasons than he knew to justify the large addition that had been made, of men who had no claims from service. Within the last 7 years, the higher promotions were as follows:-222 lieutenants had been raised to the rank of masters, and 125 masters and commanders posted. Such an increase in a period of peace, after the hopes that had been held out of reduction in the numbers, was not consistent. The country has been disappointed; but if promotions were to be made, they should have comprehended old and valuable officers, whose services entitled them to the preference. It was necessary here to anticipate an objection that had been made on a former occasion, and would most probably be re-introduced in the present discussion. It would be said, that these promotions were made on foreign service-that the admiralty had no direct interference with them-that they were essential to the well-being of the service, and were altogether free from that official influence and interest to which he (Mr. H.) was so decidedly averse. To meet this argument, he would state the extent to which promotions, exclusive of the admiralty authority, had really taken place; for he had moved, with a view to such exposition, for a return in detail of the officers who had been promoted by officers in command abroad within the last seven years. A reference

to these documents would best explain the facts, and give the best refutation to their statement. He found that the number of promotions necessarily made by deaths and dismissals for the last seven years abroad, was, commanders 5, post-captains 6, lieutenants 45. That was the whole of the casualties on foreign service, and the extent of the patronage of admirals abroad; but there was another class of officers promoted, namely, those by flag-officers on striking their flag. As each command continued for three years, the opportunity, according to the custom of the service, was afforded of making, on the 13 flag stations, 13 commanders and 13 lieutenants. Making, then, the due allowance for the casualties by death and dismissal, and the flag promotions, the number of lieutenants promoted by the admiralty amounted to 432; of commanders, 180; and of post-captains, 120. It might be said, that such as were promoted on foreign service were out of the influence of the admiralty. The fact was not so; for with the exception of the cases mentioned, the promotions abroad were just as much under admiralty influence as those which took place in London: a list was forwarded by the admiralty to the commanding officer of each station, containing the names of officers who were sent out for promotion, and on a vacancy taking place by invaliding the first of that list, for the time being, the commanding officer must of necessity promote, subject to the approbation at home.

He thought the admiralty was bound to show why such an increase in promotion had, under the circumstances of the country, taken place in these 7 years of profound peace. The misfortune was, that our number of naval officers was not necessarily proportioned to our number of vessels. In every other branch of service-in the army, for example-the power of promotion was limited to the number of regiments, and the vacancies that occurred. If there were ten regiments, it was impossible to promote a greater number of officers than the complement prescribed to these ten regiments required. A very contrary course existed in the administration of the naval service. Though there were only 300 ships of every rate (the 6 rates), it was at the discretion of the admiralty, at least in modern practice, to appoint as many commanders and captains as they chose. The House was called upon, in his judg

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »