Front Page Titles (by Subject) PAPER VII.: OBSERVATIONS ON MR. SECRETARY PEEL'S HOUSE OF COMMONS SPEECH, 21 st MARCH 1825, INTRODUCING HIS POLICE MAGISTRATES' SALARY RAISING BILL, ( Date of Order for Printing, 24 th March 1825.) - The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 5 (Scotch Reform, Real Property, Codification Petitions)
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PAPER VII.: OBSERVATIONS ON MR. SECRETARY PEEL’S HOUSE OF COMMONS SPEECH, 21 st MARCH 1825, INTRODUCING HIS POLICE MAGISTRATES’ SALARY RAISING BILL, ( Date of Order for Printing, 24 th March 1825.) - Jeremy Bentham, The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 5 (Scotch Reform, Real Property, Codification Petitions) 
The Works of Jeremy Bentham, published under the Superintendence of his Executor, John Bowring (Edinburgh: William Tait, 1838-1843). 11 vols. Vol. 5.
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OBSERVATIONS ON MR. SECRETARY PEEL’S HOUSE OF COMMONS SPEECH,
also on the
ANNOUNCED JUDGES’ SALARY RAISING BILL, AND THE PENDING COUNTY COURTS BILL
1.Clauses six: of minor importance, the four last: of major, the two first: whereof the second for establishing the measure: the first (the preamble) for justification of it.
Measure, £200 a-year added to the salaries of the existing thirty police magistrates. Original salary, £400—see below. Last year but two (3 G. IV. c. 55,) so says clause 1st,—£200 added to it. Already comes the demand for as much more.
A reason is wanted—and such an one as shall amount to a justification. Ready at hand is a complete one, and not less concise than complete; one single word—expediency. “And whereas it is expedient to increase the said salary.” The House has standing orders—Parliament has standing reasons: at any rate it has this one, and this one is the standing representative of all others. To the wise, and from the wise, this one word is sufficient.
For this second £200 it is all-sufficient; whether it might have served equally for the first, time for search is wanting. But I would venture a small wager, that on that occasion it did so serve: it will serve equally well for any number of others. It is made of stretching leather. It works well, and wears well: it will be as good a thousand years hence, as it is at present. That which is expedient is expedient. What can be more expedient than expediency? . . . . I could not refrain looking. I should have won my wager. The expediency reason is not indeed applied exclusively to the salary-raising clause (No. 6,) but it shines in the preamble; and in that clause the lustre and virtue of it extends to all the others.
According to usage, the sum is left in blank in the bill: according to usage, the blank is filled up by the eloquence of the minister.
After having thus done the one thing needful, and stamped the measure with intelligibility, he might not perhaps have done amiss, had he left the justification of it to the wisdom of parliament, as above.
That injustice may be completely avoided, misrepresentation as far as possible, the Times and the Morning Chronicle—two of the most accredited sources of information—have upon this occasion been drawn upon, and the matter divided into numbered paragraphs; and, for the grounds of the respective observations here hazarded, reference has, by means of the numbers, been made to those several paragraphs.
Original salary, £400 a-year (see below.) Last year’s addition, £200 a-year. Existing, what? £600. Magistrates, thirty. Aggregate of the addition, £6000 a-year: aggregate of the now proposed addition, another £6000 a-year; together, £12,000. Nature of the demand clear enough: not to speak of reason, which seems altogether out of the question: not so the alleged grounds of it. To tread them up has been tread-wheel work. Result, what follows.
Evils proposed to be remedied, deficiencies: 1. Deficiency in appropriate intellectual aptitude; 2. Deficiency in time employed in attendance. As to aptitude, during the £400 a-year (so says No. 2,) incompetence total. Thus far aptitude: the same certificate may, without much stretch of inference, be made to apply to quantity of attendance. These are the evils for which the second £200 a-year, multiplied by 30, is to suffice as a remedy. The first dose was administered two or three years ago: already it has been found insufficient, else why apply for another? But that which a single dose cannot effect, another dose may; and if this does not, others and others after them are at hand from the same shop.
For the remedying of these evils, the reality of them being supposed, begin as above and end as above:—the means provided by the wisdom of parliament.
That wisdom having thus exhausted itself,—for ulterior remedies, how little soever needed, comes, as will be seen, an additional supply, provided by administration: provided by the genius of Lord Sidmouth, who invented them; by the magnanimity of Mr. Peel, who disdained not to adopt them. They are—future exclusion of all non-barristers: ditto of all barristers of less than three years’ standing. I speak here, and of necessity, of the two secretaries, late and present. For it is by Mr. Peel and his successors in that office, if by anybody, that these remedies are to be applied. Parliament is to know nothing of them: parliament is not to be trusted with the application of them.
Viewing all this wisdom and virtue through the medium of the greatest-happiness principle (a principle which has been accused of giving to financial objects rather a yellow tinge,) I have the misfortune of seeing the whole speech in a considerably different point of view:—(1) The alleged evils—the inaptitude, and the non-attendance—neither of them proved by it. (2) Supposing the disorder proved; the supposed remedy, parliamentary and ministerial, as above, inefficient to any good purpose; efficient to a very bad purpose; but both these evils, though not proved by the right honourable secretary, I admit, and, as it seems to me, probabilize, the existence, (3) at the same time, of both. (4) So doing, I venture to propose a remedy, which, for reasons assigned, seems to me a promising one—and the only one which the nature of the case admits of, without some change in the whole judiciary system, such as in part has been, and with large amendments will again be, submitted to the public, but which it would be altogether useless, as well as impracticable, to insert here.
Alleged Evil 1.—Deficiency in appropriate aptitude. Here I take upon me to say not proved. Here I am all confidence. Subpœna in hand, I call on the right honourable secretary. In No. 11 stands his evidence—“Present police magistrates” (per Times) “of the highest personal respectability.” Per Morning Chronicle—“their knowledge, experience, and respectability,”—(all thirty of them)—“and their services had already proved the importance of the duties they had to fulfil.” Per Times, again—“They performed their duties” (and that not only to the satisfaction of the right honourable secretary, but) “to the great satisfaction of the country.”
This being unquestionable, what is become of the evil, and what need can there be of a remedy?
What a scene is here! The right honourable gentleman at daggers-drawn with himself! How to account for it? One way alone I can think of, and it is this:—the force of his eloquence overpowered his memory. While, with so much pathos, he was lamenting, on the part of a certain set of persons, the deplorable want of aptitude,—he forgot that, before he sat down, he had to deliver, in behalf of the selfsame persons, a certificate of accomplished aptitude. When at last the time had come for the delivery of this certificate, he had already forgot how large a portion of his speech had been employed in giving contradiction to it. To answer the purpose for which they are made, what must be the complexion of the assertions of inaptitude uttered with such entire confidence? They must be at once true and false: true, for the purpose of proving the necessity of the additional bonus; false, for the purpose of entitling these thus meritorious and actually existing persons (for this slides in sub silentio) to receive, before any of their future contingent colleagues have been in existence to receive it, a full share of the benefit of it. Admit him to be in possession of the power of giving truth to a self-contradictory proposition, the right honourable secretary proves this his probandum, and thus far justifies his measure: refuse him this accommodation, he stands self-confuted, and his argument is somewhat worse than none.
Were ministerial responsibility anything better than a word, the task the right honourable gentleman had charged himself with was (it must be confessed) rather a delicate one. English punch, according to the Frenchman in the jest book, is a liquor of contradiction: a compound of a similar complexion was that which, on occasions such as the present, a situation such as the right honourable secretary occupies, gives him in charge to mix up, for the entertainment of Honourable House. Except in the case of an underling whose character is too offensively rotten not to make it matter of necessity to suffer him to be thrown overboard, for all official men in general—high and low—there is but one character: a general character for excellence, tinged here and there with a little difference of colour, corresponding to the nature of the department. The idea looks as if it were taken from the old chronicles: where, with decent intervals, one portrait serves for half-a-dozen worthies: one town for the same number of towns, and so as to battles and executions. Time and labour are thus saved. This universal character puts one in mind or an ingenious document I have seen, sold under the title of the Universal Almanac. A copy of it has been supposed to be bound up with every cabinet minister’s copy of the red book. Like a formula for convictions, it might be inserted into each particular, or into one general, act of parliament. Subscription to it, and oath of belief in it, in relation to all official persons whose salaries had risen or should hereafter rise to a certain amount, might be added to the test and corporation acts: and, without need of troubling the legislature, Lord Chief-Justice Abbott, or Lord Chief-Justice Anybody, would hold himself in readiness to fine and imprison every man who should dare to insinuate that any such person that lives, or that ever has lived, or that ever shall live, is, has been, or ever can be, deficient in any one point belonging to it.
Without violation of this standing character rule, he saw how impossible it was, that any the slightest shade of inaptitude, actual or possible, in any one of its modes, could be laid upon the character of any one of the existing incumbents. “With the character of all of them, all who heard him” (see No. 11) “were acquainted.” Remain, according to parliamentary usage, the only persons with whom any such liberty could be taken—their future-contingent, and thence as yet unknown successors.
Here, however, comes something of a difficulty. Evil as above—disorder as above—inaptitude in some shape or other: remedy as above, of the preventive stamp, the £200 a-year. Good: supposing disorder or danger of it. But where is the room for it, where there is neither the one nor the other? Sole reason, the word invidious. Invidious it would be, and that being the case, “poor economy”—“so poor,” says No. 8, “that there could not be a worse”—to refuse to those gentlemen whom everybody knows, that which will be given to those of whom, without disparagement it must be said, that they are gentlemen whom as yet nobody knows.
So much as to aptitude: and the alleged, and by the same person at the same time denied deficiency in it. Remains, as another and the only remaining subject-matter of deficiency, the article of time—time employed in official attendance. This, too, is another delicate topic. Standing so near to aptitude, and, in particular, to the moral branch of it, nothing determinate in relation to it could be hazarded: allusion, insinuation, yes: but nothing that applied to anybody. “Great increase of population.”—(No. 1, Morning Chronicle.) “The duties of the office would require constant attendance”—(No. 5, Morning Chronicle;)—“almost constant attendance”—(No. 4, Times.) Hereupon comes the same troublesome question as before. This constancy of attendance, is it not then paid by the present gentlemen? Answer, as before, yes and no: and, to secure it at the hands of their future colleagues and successors, comes the necessity of the same sweet security—the £200 a-year: this £200 a-year to be given, and without condition, not only to those unknown persons, but moreover, and in the first place, on pain of hearing the word “invidious,” and bearing the stigma of “poverty,” given also to the existing gentlemen, in whose instance there is so much, and so little, need of it.
So much for the right honourable secretary’s two evils, and his proof of their existence. Now for his two ministerial remedies in aid of the £200 a-year parliamentary one.—1. Exclusion of all but barristers; 2. Exclusion of all barristers but three-year old ones. Problem, which his rhetoric or his logic, or what is sometimes more powerful than both, his silence, has undertaken for the solution of—how to prove, that, by these two exclusions, added to the £200 a-year,—appropriate aptitude, moral, intellectual, and active, adequate to the situation, together with adequate plenitude of attendance, will be produced.
By this policy, he secures, to this class of his protegés, the aptitude, proved by the right to the name of barrister. Now, then, what are the qualifications, the sole qualifications, of the possession of which any proof whatever is given by the right to bear this name?—Answer—Being of full age; payment of a certain sum in fees and taxes; and, on a certain number of days sprinkled over a surface of five years, eating and drinking in a certain place, or therein making believe to eat and drink. Sum: between one and two hundred pounds; place, the hall of an inn of court; number of days, twenty in every year: total number of days, a hundred. As to the making believe, this option must not be omitted: nor yet the hour—four, or half-past four; for neither the hour nor the fare accord well with the taste of the class of persons for whom, it will be seen, the £800 is destined.
As if this security were not strong enough, now mounts another upon the shoulders of it. After five years employed in the above exercises, then comes a repose of three years more; for not less indeed than these three years more, must this class of the right honourable secretary’s protegés have borne the name of barrister: but, as to the exercises of eating and drinking, if it be agreeable to the gentleman to perform them, he is no longer burthened with any limitation in regard to place. The right honourable minister, in the pathetic part of his speech (No. 4,) asks a question: May logic, in the person of an obscure individual, be permitted to do the like? Comparatively speaking (for I mean nothing more)—service for five years, (the usual time,) as clerk to an attorney, would it not be a security, though not so dignified, somewhat more efficient? The clerk could not be altogether ignorant of law, without his master’s suffering for it. The master, therefore, has some interest in causing him to learn it; the clerk in learning it. But more of this further on.
The security is of Lord Sidmouth’s invention: so his right honourable successor assures us: and much inferior authority might have sufficed to command belief. It is just the sort of security, that the genius of his noble and learned oracle, or of Mr. Justice Bailey, or of Mr. Justice Park, might have devised: of all these luminaries, the collective wisdom was perhaps expended upon it. For all these luminaries, the name of barrister, with three years’ wear of it, was security sufficient: and, if he is sincere, Lord Sidmouth’s successor looks no deeper than to names.
So much better in their eyes is a nominal security than a real one, that when a real one offers, it is deliberately put aside—(No. 6.)
The design of the right honourable secretary found the class of country gentlemen standing in its way: a class, before which ministers, not to say kings themselves, bow, was not to be lightly dealt with. Something in the way of compliment to them was indispensable; the compliment, however, was unavoidably of a somewhat ambiguous character, as, not being eminent lawyers, they could not serve the purpose. Inaptitude on their parts—relative inaptitude at least—it was necessary should somehow or other be insinuated.
As to this matter, if absolute inaptitude would content the right honourable gentleman, my feeble suffrage would see no very cogent reason against joining itself to his: but, as to comparative inaptitude, in the case in question—comparative in relation to his three years’ old, and theretofore, perhaps, eating and drinking barristers, so far I cannot go with him. For, not only country gentlemen at large, but country magistrates—nay, and such country magistrates as have been in use to perform—and that for whatsoever length of time—the duties of this very office—such are those he puts from him. This being decided, for extinguishing all pretensions to appropriate aptitude on their part, the purpose of his argument required a dyslogistic epithet. Routine is accordingly the epithet, by which the whole of the business they have been accustomed to is characterized. Yet, make the least of it, it at any rate composes the greatest part of the business of the very office from which he is excluding them: one more look, and you will see that the business they have been accustomed to has, in the instance of many of them, and may, if he will vouchsafe to adopt them, be, in the instance of all these children of his adoption, made to comprise the whole of it. Such being the candidates whom he puts aside as unfit for the business, what are the objects of his embrace? Three-years old barristers, altogether unused to business of any kind; unless eating and drinking, or making believe to eat and drink, is business. To a person who has never dined, or made believe to dine, at an inn of court hall, all this may seem exaggeration, to say no worse. I speak not only from observation, but from experience. Such is my good fortune, never as yet have I been convicted of perjury: nobody has ever given me anything for saying this: my evidence is therefore good evidence; and it applies not less to the making believe to eat and drink, than to the actual exhibition of those so perfectly conclusive, and exclusively receivable, tests of aptitude for the office of magistrate. Thus the matter stood sixty years ago, and thus, I am assured, by equally competent witnesses, it stands still. Let it not be said, the place being a law place, the conversation turns of course upon law. There being no conversation upon anything, there is no conversation upon law; for, unless you happen to be already acquainted with him, you have no more conversation with your messmate, than if he were at the antipodes.
To complete his demonstration of the superiority of his three-years old barristers without any experience, to a quondam country gentleman with thirty years of appropriate experience, the right honourable secretary brings exemplification from the building act, and tells Honourable House of a case under it which (says No. 7) had occupied “a couple of days, during which surveyors had been examined on both sides.” Now, in a case of this sort, what is there that should render even an experienced magistrate less competent than an equally experienced barrister? What has it to do either with equity or with common law? Country magistrates, who, not a few of them, are themselves builders—who, all of them, are accustomed to order buildings to be built—built with perhaps a little of their own money, and sometimes with rather too much of other people’s—what should hinder them from being at least as well conversant with the subject as the most learned inhabitant of Lincoln’s Inn Old-buildings? Here, for law is an act of parliament, nothing more: for fact, evidence about something that should or should not have been done under that same act. The days thus employed, what would they have been to the purpose, if, instead of two, there had been twenty of them?
At the winding up of his speech (No. 10,) to place above all contradiction the indispensableness of the £200 a-year, comes a trope—the word refuse—which seems to bid defiance to all endeavours to descry anything in it beyond the intensity of the desire to give birth to the indispensable effect.
Barristers—all barristers in the lump—are, by this figure of speech, divided into two classes: those who will serve for £600 a-year, and those who will not serve for the £600, but will for the £800. As to the meaning, it is indeed intelligible enough: not so, by any means, the grounds of it. That it were so is, however, rather to be wished: for those—all those, who would be content that the £600 a-year, public money, which the right honourable secretary is thus buying creatures with, should be saved—all those, barristers as they are, are branded with the common name of refuse. Such is the contempt—the undisguised, the thus loudly proclaimed contempt, in which sincerity—I mean always comparative sincerity—is held by this one of our head guardians of public morals. Insincerity is among the qualities professed to be possessed by barristers: the only one which is sure to be possessed by any of them. Now then, true it is, that no reason can be alleged for supposing, that, so far as disposition goes, those who get least business are behind-hand in this endowment, with those who get most: but disposition is one thing—practice is another: and the less a man has manifested of it, the more deep-drawn is the contempt which he receives on his head at the hands of the right honourable secretary, from the bucket lettered with the word refuse.
Meantime, here stands a strange mystery. Refuse—were there ever such a plenty of it, would the hand of Mr. Peel pick it off the dunghill, and place it on high—this refuse? Forbid it, consistency, at least. For who is it that prophesies it of him? Is it not Mr. Peel himself? But shall he be suffered thus to deal by himself? Shall Amyntas murder Amyntas?
One possible solution remains, and but one. On the part of a barrister, willingness to serve in the office of police magistrate for so little as the £600 a-year, is not merely evidence of his inaptitude for that office, but conclusive evidence. This meaning, however strange, being intelligible enough—we have thus far something tangible to examine. For, supposing none but refuse willing to serve, refuse he must take up with, or have none: and thus, it being Hobson’s choice, there is no inconsistency either in his making it, or in his avowing the making it. But suppose enough willing who are not refuse, what matter is it how many there are who are refuse? Will he, then, having good and bad before him, both in plenty, take in hand the bad, putting aside the good?
The stock of difficulties is not yet exhausted. Comes now a point for him to settle with certain gentlemen. Of the thirty gentlemen at present serving in this situation, four I see, who, by his own account (No. 11,) are serving, and for these three years, or thereabouts, have been serving, at the low price. None of them, I hope, were born in Ireland, or in the United States: if yes, there may be danger in the case. “Sir,” they may say to him, one after another, “do you mean to call me refuse?” One consolation is, that refuse, as according to him they are (as per No. 1,) they are not the less included in his certificate (No. 6) of universal aptitude. This, with the assurance of the additional £200, may, it is hoped, soften them. Was it for this, that the £200 was extended to those in whose instance experience, if he is to be believed, has demonstrated that for any other purpose it was not needed?
One lumping assumption there is, upon which the whole strength of his argument rests. Faintness of prospect, such as to induce a man in the profession to take up with £600 a-year certain, charged with moderate labour, is conclusive evidence of his not being fit, either for the profession of barrister, or for the office of police magistrate. How brisk are the right honourable secretary’s conclusions! Involved in the assumption is this—that all who have not actually a certain quantity of the business in question, or at least a strong assurance of it, are unfit for it. Now then, how stands the matter in point of fact? In a prodigious degree more than any other, this profession is always overstocked. In this same profession, the quantity of business that shall be deemed sufficient to produce a refusal of the office, with the £600 a-year—let the fixation of it be left even to him—for one who is in possession of it, there may be two, or more likely a much greater multiple of one, that are not in possession of it. Here then, according to his own reckoning, for one who is not refuse, there will be the two, the three, the half-dozen (where shall we end?) who are refuse: and yet, as above, of this refuse, for aught he can know, numbers there are in any proportion, whose aptitude is at the highest pitch, and who yet, if they have either common prudence, or disposition to follow so many examples as are before them, will not disdain to pick up the supposed disgraceful pittance. Let me not be accused of taking an undue advantage of an unguarded word. Substitute the tamest word the language furnishes, the arguments remain the same.
Meantime, who does not know that there are certain points of aptitude, in respect of which a man may be very indifferently qualified for making his way at the bar; and yet, perhaps, be but so much the better qualified for the exercise of the functions of the office in question, being, as they are—with Mr. Justice Bailey’s leave be it spoken—the functions of the judge. Rhetoric is the leading talent of the barrister; logic, of the judge: and, between the two, the strife is not much less fierce than, according to the poet, between liberty and love.
Be this as it may, almost everybody knows—and a man must be a secretary of state, or at least a cabinet minister, not to know—that in this profession, above all others, success depends upon accident, at least as much as upon aptitude:—that it has for its proximate cause a certain opinion in the heads of attorneys: and that, if external circumstances, altogether independent of inward endowments, do not concur in the generation of this opinion, a man may unite the rhetoric of a Murray with the logic of a Dunning, and, at the end of a long life, die, like Sergeant Kemble the reporter, without ever having clasped to his panting breast the blessing of a brief.
Nor yet are we out of our wood; for still remains one topic, to thicken the perplexity. It is that of the length of standing—the yet remaining one of the three branches of the right honourable secretary’s security for aptitude. To render a barrister an object of his choice, three years (says No. 3) must be his length of standing. Now then, of the number three thus applied, what was the design?—to extend the number of admissible candidates, or to narrow it? The too young or the too old—for the exclusion of which of these unapt classes was it intended? The too young, says the wording, abstractedly considered: the too old, says the word refuse, and the sort of argument conveyed by it. For, these are they, who, by their willingness to accept of so low a price as the £600, have given the requisite proof of inaptitude—of their despair of barrister business—and consequently of their inaptitude for the office of police magistrate. Thus incompetent, says the argument, are the old barristers run to seed.—Turn now to the three-year-olds. In the breasts of all this blooming youth, no such self-condemning and inaptitude-proving despair, can have had time to form itself. At this short standing,—unless here and there a special pleader, who has shown himself by practice under the bar, be an exception,—no practice, no expectation—consequently no disappointment. Expectation! How should there have been any? After these three years, how long (shall we say) continues the time for junior openings, which require nothing but a few words got by heart, and half-guinea motions of course, which require not even that?—sources not furnishing, upon an average, the tenth part of the supposed disdained £600. Now then comes the comparison. To these men, in whose instance, by the admission, or rather by the assertion, of the right honourable secretary, the probability is—that they have had no appropriate experience worth mentioning,—to these men is to belong the exclusive chance of being chosen for the office, while those, who may have appropriate experience, in any quantity not incompatible with the choice of £600 a-year for life, charged with the already very moderate, and naturally still decreasing labour, which will be seen presently,—are for that reason to be regarded as being proved in hopeless degree unapt, and on that ground are to be excluded from all chance.
“But you have forgot.” says somebody, “the wonder-working £200 a-year.” Not I indeed. But forasmuch as, in the case of the three-year-olds, it is to create aptitude out of nothing,—I see not why it should find less difficulty in creating it, in the instance of the twenty or twenty-three-year-olds, to whose stock of the requisite materials no limitation can be assigned, short of that which is applied by an assurance of more than the £600 a-year by professional practice.
To prepare Honourable House for the reception of the above logic and the above rhetoric, right honourable secretary sets out, I see, with history. Original salaries, £400; result per Times (No. 2,) “incompetence:” per Morning Chronicle, “total incompetence.” Cause and proof of the incompetence, manifest: out of twelve (the original number) barristers, no more than three. Being barristers, these three should naturally have produced a five-and-twenty per cent. discount from the totality of the incompetence; but perhaps they were of the refuse sort: and grant him but this, the exception, being thus only apparent, gives strength, rather than weakness to his sweeping rule. Here, too, sincerity compels me to be totally recalcitrant: major, minor, conclusion—to nothing can I accede. Incompetence, neither proved nor probabilized: power of the first £200 a-year to increase competence (supposing a deficiency of it,) denied by me: supposing it admitted, need of the proposed second £200 a-year for producing competence, denied again: the actual production of it having been so triumphantly proved by me, as above: proved by the most irrefragable of all testimony—his own evidence.
Proof of the incompetence of the original nine,—non-barristership. With so concise, and at the sametime so satisfactory a proof, especially to the barrister part of the audience,—at this stage of his history in union with his logic, the right honourable secretary might perhaps have done as well, had he not only begun, but ended: not much strength, it is believed, will either of these his supports receive from the particulars. The year of the establishment being 1792,—the nine are all of them, by this time, gathered to their fathers; indeed, the right honourable gentleman’s urbanity considered, the sentence thus passed on them proves as much. From such a quarter, a more drastic condemnation, unless it were by the word refuse, can scarcely be imagined. But they had not risen (poor gentlemen!) to the rank of those, the feelings of whose surviving relatives can make claim to the protection of Lord Chief-Justice Abbott: and, if they had, it is not against a secretary of state, nor even against a member of Honourable House—speaking in his place—that it could be afforded. Instead of the sweet satisfaction of seeing fine and imprisonment inflicted on the gainsayer,—they must therefore, under their affliction, put up with such poor support, as an obscure and unpaid exbarrister of the refuse class has it in his power to give.
With an exception (of which presently,) of no one of the devoted nine do I remember anything. The sort of character evidence which I have to adduce for them, is therefore none of it of that sort which is called direct: none of it more than circumstantial. Nor is it the worse for being so; for, as applied to character, the value of direct evidence, unless it be from some such person as a secretary of state, may be judged from what is above, although it is from a secretary of state.
To return to the history.—In regard to appropriate aptitude—(competence I cannot keep to, since it includes, not to say exclusively denotes, acceptance at the hands of those to whom inaptitude is a recommendation)—in regard to appropriate aptitude, the question is between the nine defunct and reprobated original magistrates, and the right honourable secretary’s magistrates in petto or in embryo—his three-year-old barristers. Of these, as yet unborn babes of grace—offspring of the imagination of the right honourable secretary—the title to the quality of aptitude has been already disposed of: circumstantial evidence and proof presumptive of inaptitude,—want of experience in business, or, more shortly—their not being men of business. Now then for my nine clients. The right honourable secretary’s list of them (No. 2) has been seen: major, one; clergymen, three;—(oh fie! what! after the major?)—starch-dealers, two; Glasgow trader, one. Now, with the exception of the three clergymen (whom I shall leave to those so much more efficient advocates, of whom no gentleman of their cloth can never be in want)—magistrates for whom I cannot find any tolerably presumptive evidence of their having been men of business in any way—of all the others I am bold to affirm that they had been men of business.
I will go further, and add,—nor is there any one of those occupations, experience in the business of which does not afford stronger presumption of aptitude—even in relation to the business of the office in question, than can be afforded by an utter want of all experience in any kind of business. The major, being a major, must have passed through the several grades—ensign (or the equivalent) lieutenant, captain: and, in all of them, if commanding men by scores and hundreds is business—he must have been a man of business. The starch-dealers, they too must have been men of business; for buying and selling starch is doing business: and in that business, with whatever degree of success, they could not but have been exerting themselves, forasmuch as their subsistence depended upon it. All this, too, in addition to their having been bonâ fide eating as well as drinking; to wit, from the hour they gave up the nipple, down to the time of their appointment; which is rather more than can be alleged in favour of the aptitude of the right honourable secretary’s protegés, unless it be the difference between the performing of those exercises at a man’s own home, and the performing them in the hall of an inn of court: which difference I cannot bring myself to regard as constituting, to the purpose in question, a very material one.
I come lastly to the Glasgow trader. Being a trader, he too must have been a man of business. As such I might leave him; but, it having fallen in my way to know in what ways, and in how conspicuous a degree, with reference to the business of this very office, he proved himself a man of business, I shall venture a few particulars. This man was Patrick Colquhoun: and, unless destroyed by the comparative smallness of his remuneration, his relative aptitude has stronger, as well as more incontrovertible proofs than can, I trust, be produced, not only by the right honourable secretary’s unknown protegés in embryo, whom even I look down upon as so many chits,—but even by the whole of the actually existing barrister-magistrates, produced by the additional £200 a-year, to whom I make my bow, whoever they may be.—Treatise (I mean) on the Police of the Metropolis, Treatise on Indigence, Treatise on the Office of Constable—and, for aught I know, others (for I have not time to hunt for them) bearing most directly upon the business of this very office. As to the first-mentioned—of the number of its editions I am afraid to speak, not having the last before me: the fifth, which I have in hand, is as early as 1797, and there must have been several others after it. Into the merits of them I cannot afford to enter, this paper not being either a Quarterly, an Edinburgh, or a Westminster Review: nor, if I could, could I venture to put my judgment in competition with the single word incompetence, from the lips of the right honourable secretary. I must leave them, therefore, to that evidence: and, if that evidence be not more probative, than any which the right honourable secretary has adduced in favour of his future protegés, or even in favour of their existing predecessors and intended colleagues, I must give up my cause.
Evidence of this sort in abundance must be omitted. One lot is too pointed to be thus dealt with. To this Glasgow trader, whatever may be the value of it, was the public indebted for the first addition made to the number of those offices, and the right honourable secretary for a proportionable part of the patronage, to the value of which he is thus labouring to give increase. It was the addition made by the Thames police act, 39 and 40 Geo. III. anno 1800, ch. 87. Of this business, it fell in my way not to be altogether ignorant. A bill was necessary. Colquhoun had found the facts. I ventured to supply the law. I drew the bill, leaving out as much of the customary surplusage as I durst. In the procedure clauses, for giving execution and effect to the law, I ventured as far as I durst, and further than any one had ventured before. Incompetent as the performance could not but be, coming out of such hands, change of hands rendered its competence unquestionable. At my humble request, a learned gentleman of the first distinction (I know my distance better than to mention him) received it into his, and, without the change of a word, it became law. The plan had been formed by Colquhoun, in conjunction with I forget what body of mercantile men, who wanted a sort of board of which he was to be at the head. The board they did not get; but a present of £500 testified their sense of his competence with relation to police business. Such was the nameless Glasgow trader: his name would not have been quite so suitable to the right honourable secretary’s purpose, as it is to mine.
As to the three clergymen, leaving the question as to their incompetence to be settled by the honourable secretary with the archbishops of Canterbury, defunct and living, the lord chancellors, and the several lord lieutenants, I proceed to the remaining one of the two evils, for which the second £200 a-year, as provided by him, is to operate as a remedy. This is—the deficiency in the article of time: the deficiency, if any, present or future, in regard to the quantity of time employed, or eventually about to be employed, by the magistrates in question, in the fulfilment of their duties.
On this evil the right honourable secretary touches, it should seem, with rather a tender hand: allusion and insinuation, rather than assertion, are the forms of speech I see employed. (Per No. 1)—In the business “great increase:” cause, ditto, partly in acts of parliament, partly in population. Triumphant tenders of papers in proof of all these facts,—to which might have been added, the existence of the sun at noon-day.
Of the existence of the thus delicately-assumed evil,—at the hands of the right honourable secretary I look in vain for other proof. From that most authentic source, somewhat less explicit is the evidence I see to the contrary. It is that which has been already seen: it is made of stretching leather: it is wide enough to be applied to whatever can be desired. By the thirty gentlemen—(who, it has been seen, are at once so competent, and, for want of the £200 a-year, so incompetent)—these duties, as per No. 11, are performed to the great satisfaction of the country; and this, notwithstanding that, as per No. 4, to prove the necessity of the barrister part, almost constant attendance, he says, is required. Required? Good. But by whom was it, or anything like it, ever required?—a question somewhat more easy to put than to answer. By any such attendance, or anything like an approach to it, the place would be spoilt, and no gentleman would accept it: acceptance would of itself be proof of incompetence.
Now then, forasmuch as, in this office, according to the right honourable secretary’s opinion, an “almost constant attendance” is required, and accordingly forms part and parcel of its duties;—and forasmuch as, without exception, these same duties are, according to this his evidence, actually performed—performed not merely to his satisfaction, but to the satisfaction of the country:—forasmuch as, I say, evidence of the existence of this one of his two evils, is, notwithstanding the prodigious pile of papers, with the mention of which he at once alarmed and satisfied the House, still to seek;—for this deficiency, though it is not in my power to provide a supply, it is not, I flatter myself, altogether out of my power humbly to point out a course by which he may obtain it. True or false, newspaper statement is unofficial statement: unofficial statement is not admitted in evidence, even when no man in Honourable House doubts, or will venture to express a doubt, of the correctness of it. Honourable House knows better than to admit, through such a channel, anything, however well attested, in the character of evidence. Yet are such statements,—unofficial and incompetent as they are,—made use of, every day, in the character of indicative evidence, for the elicitation of acknowledged evidence. This premised, I shall venture to copy from a newspaper a portion of a paragraph: humbly observing, that in every one of the offices in question there exist various persons, from any of whom, if it be agreeable to know it, Honourable House, and in it right honourable secretary, may learn at any time, whether, in this same newspaper statement, there be any and what portion and degree of truth, and how far the actual agrees with their “required constancy of attendance.”
“We believe,” says the Globe and Traveller, as quoted in the Examiner of March 27, 1825—“we believe a magistrate attends at each of the offices from twelve to three, and looks in again in the evening. There are three magistrates in an office, so that this duty is imposed upon each of them twice a-week. We know that there is some business for which the presence of two magistrates is necessary; but it is to be recollected, that at almost all the offices, volunteer magistrates are frequently in attendance. We are convinced that a very large statement of the time each magistrate needs be in attendances is—every other day, three hours in the morning, and twice a-week, two hours in the evening.”
In regard to this evil, if anything that comes from so incompetent a quarter could be heard, I could, I think, do something towards tranquillizing the right honourable secretary. Aptitude is not quite so easily secured as asserted. But attendance—the maximum of possible attendance—every master-man, how humble soever in condition—every masterman that really desires it, has it. To the extent of his desires, the right honourable secretary has it in his own individual office. With the assistance of Honourable and Right Honourable House, to the same extent he may have it in the instance of every other public office without exception. If, then, in any instance, and in any degree, he fails to have it, it is because he does not desire, not because he is not able, to obtain it.
You may maximize attendance, and you may minimize it. The maximization problem has been solved, and with illustrious success, in the case of the children of the indigent, when worked upon a steam scale. As some are killed off, others succeed: and capital—the one and the only thing needful—accumulates. Examined in his place, or elsewhere, one honourable member of Honourable House could give, on this point, if I have not been misinformed, instructive information. His name, if I mistake not, begins with a P.
Those whose will it is to minimize attendance might, if in the above newspaper report there be any approach to truth, receive instruction, if it be worth while, by applying to another P., no less a P. than Mr. Secretary Peel. But it is not worth while: those who understand nothing else, understand this. Everybody, man and boy, knows how to be idle—every man knows what it is to stand looking on, and helping, while others are idle. Every man knows what it is to pay, as well as to be paid, for doing work, and all the while seeing and leaving it undone. Other arts travel at their different paces. Under Matchless Constitution, the art of sinecurism is at its acme.
In my small way, I have a manufactory of my own, in which, with the same sort of instrument (imagination) with which the right honourable secretary has manufactured aptitude in the instance of his three-year-old barrister-magistrates, and for my own amusement (as a half-retired chimneysweeper swept chimneys) I make judges. My judges are judges of all work, and of all hours. They do not, it is true, sit, each of them, every day in every year, and on every day, every hour of the four-and-twenty; but, in each judicatory, they, following one another, do all this. When sleeps injustice, so may justice too, said a voice to me in one of my dreams. My muse is but a hobbling one:—she has not been to school to the laureate’s: the too is somewhat of a botch: but I remember her so much the better. In one thing I endeavour to copy the right honourable secretary’s noble and learned friend—it is the quality so judiciously selected for his eulogium—consistency. The ends to which my judicial establishment, and my procedure code, in conformity to the constitutional code to which they belong, are from beginning to end directed, are the ends of justice: under Matchless Constitution, the ends to which the judicial establishment is, and the procedure code, if there were any, would be, directed,—are the ends of judicature. What these are, it is not for me to presume to inform the honourable secretary: over and over again he must have heard them, amidst peals of laughter, or floods of tears, from his learned and matchlessly-consistent friend, before or after the second bottle.
Such being the bill—such the ostensible and declared objects of it—such the evils asserted or insinuated—such the remedies provided—such the arguments employed in proof of the evils, and in recommendation of the remedies—what, after all, is the real object? The topic must not be omitted: though to few of the readers, if any, whose patience has brought them thus far, can anything on this head be regarded as much more needed, than were the honourable secretary’s proofs, of increase of population and acts of parliament.
Loss, by waste of public money, is in every instance an evil: in the present instance, loss in the article of aptitude is, in my view of the matter, a still greater evil. To the augmentation of aptitude, perfectly inoperative will be the £200 a-year: not so to the diminution of it. £1000 a-year is a salary for a nobly related puisne, at one of the highest boards. I am fearful of mistakes, and have no time for researches. When red books had the salaries to them, £1000, if recollection does not mislead me, was the number attached to the office of Puisne Admiralty Lord.
In the heaven of office, there are many mansions. Of a Police Magistrate, the station cannot be altogether upon a level with that of an Admiralty Lord: but the £200 a-year will raise the lower office to a level next below that of the higher one. To a reverend youth—even to one born honourable—a spiritual benefice yielding £800 a-year is not altogether an object of disdain:—eased, as above, of labour, though not so perfectly as in the other case, why should even this temporal one? Without some improvement, attendance is a burthen the lay incumbent can not be altogether eased of: thought he may be eased of without difficulty. When two magistrates are necessary, there must be a non-honourable to yield thought, but the honourable will serve as well as the non-honourable to yield auspices: when one magistrate suffices, the dignity of the honourable man will need no disturbance. But, the only case, in which burthens so degrading to honourable men will require to be imposed, is an extreme case. Naturally speaking, there will in general be unpaid magistrates enough, to whom, for the time and trouble of attendance, the power and the amusement will afford sufficient compensation. One of these suppléans, the non-honourable, takes care to provide, each time, for his honourable friend and colleague. Thus is the labour of the honourable minimized: and, sadly have his non-honourable colleagues been deficient in what everybody owes to his rank, if the quantity of time actually employed in official duties is anything more than an impalpable one.
Here, then, in short, comes the effect and use of this second £200. The first did not bring the place within the sphere of the highly-connected class: the hope is—that the second will: it will, at any rate, form a basis for a third.
So stood the matter in Sir Hudibras’s time. But now the £200 must have an ever increasing number of others to mount upon.
Seldom, if ever, do I endeavour to overthrow, without endeavouring at the same time to build up. For maximizing the chance in favour of everything needful, I have a recipe of my own, and that exemplified upon the largest scale; the principle of it will be found in another part of this volume, or in one that will soon follow it. Alas! what hopes can there be for mine? It is the very reverse of the right honourable secretary’s. It may serve him at any rate to laugh at. His plan excludes experienced magistrates, admitting nobody but nominal barristers. Now then comes the laugh:—the most efficient and approved of House of Commons arguments. Mine admits nobody but experienced magistrates; excluding barristers, nominal and real all together.
My plan serves at once for aptitude and attendance. As to aptitude,—for that I require, as a qualification, previous admission into the magistracy, and thereafter, unpaid, but constant and adequately proved attendance, at some one of the existing offices; attendance for a certain length of time, say five years: to wit, when from the commencement of the plan that length of time has elapsed, and till then for as great a length of time as can be had.
Now for a contrast, between my experienced magistrates, and the right honourable secretary’s unfledged barristers—adding, if so it please him, any number of grey-headed ones.
1. As to moral aptitude, my magistrates will have been engaged in the exclusive support of right—or at least of what the legislature has pronounced right,—and the exclusive repression of wrong—or at least of what the legislature has pronounced wrong. His barristers will have been occupied either in nothing at all, or in what is so much worse than nothing, promiscuous defence of right and wrong, with the universal predilection for wrong, as being the best customer.
2. As to intellectual aptitude, composed as it is of appropriate knowledge and judgment, my magistrates will, for the whole of their unremunerated length of time, have been employed, on the very spot, in study, and occasionally in practice, in the very field for which it is proposed to engage their remunerated services; in the whole of that field, and in no other than that field, to their consideration will have been subjected, in all their varieties, all sorts of cases which can have grown up in that same field. The right honourable secretary’s barristers, with their £800, instead of £600 a-year,—how will they have been occupied? My answer has been seen already. The right honourable secretary’s answer the country will be grateful for, if he can find any. But they may have been not only barristers, but barristers in full practice, and all the while not knowing anything more of the business of a police magistrate, than if they had been all the while fighting as army officers. Of practising barristers there are about as many equity as common lawyers. Now, in a police magistrate’s practice, what is there that has anything in common with equity practice? Let him bestow a glance on the table to Maddock’s Equity, and then on the table to the last edition of Burn’s Justice, or whatever work has now supplanted it, and see whether this is not strictly true. To those abstracts I venture in kindness to refer him, long as the road through may seem to be, as being shorter than through the mazes of his walking dictionary. Those he might get by heart, sooner than an intelligible answer from his oracle; a negative the oracle would not venture to give, and an affirmative he would not choose to give.
3. Lastly, as to appropriate active aptitude. On the part of my magistrates, it would be a maximum. By every motive they would be impelled to render it so. At the hands of the barrister, what his right honourable patron does not require, is activity in any shape; all he does require, is existence.
As to attendance, and the means of securing it, to a great degree it is already comprised in the active aptitude just spoken of. But, in whatever possible degree he chooses to have it, he may have it if he pleases: nobody who does choose to have it, ever fails of having it. I will not attempt to trouble him with particular proofs, as they are already in one of my waking dreams.* In manuscript they are already in another or two, and will ere long be in print, if I live.†
This plan would suit both classes. The expectant stipendiaries would not be disinclined to attend, since it would increase their chance of the preferment; the existing stipendiaries would not be disinclined to be attended for, since it would increase their ease. How much soever superior the £600 a-year ones may be, to their exploded predecessors the £400 a-year ones,—were they to leave the burthen of the day altogether to the still superior expectants, if such they should prove, the public would not, any more than these same parties, have, in this quiet arrangement, any reason to repine. Ahab had served Baal a little. Jehu hath served him much. What prospect have I not opened!—what an Epicurean heaven! Thirty £600 a-year places, and all sinecures! So many temporal prebends and canonries! With such a pot-pourri of sweet arguments, what is there that could not be proved? Laughable and delectable all this—True: but would it be the less beneficial? Not it, indeed.—See Horace’s Reports. Ridentem dicere, &c.
Suppose not that it is upon this £6000 a-year alone that all this examination has been expended. The expense is but as a drop in the bucket. The reasoning on which it is supported is no such trifle: if good for £6000, not less would it be for £60,000, for £600,000 or £6,000,000. More than even this might, if duly looked into, be seen perhaps to stand upon no better grounds. Be this as it may; by any one in whom curiosity is strong enough, it may be seen how admirable a match it makes with that, on the ground of which Burke for the Whigs, followed by Rose for the Tories, proved, as another part of this volume will show, the necessity of draining, out of the pockets of the productive classes, the last drop of the matter of wealth that could be squeezed out of them consistently with the continuation of their existence. Practice, it is true, cannot be always rendered altogether co-extensive with theory; but whether the theory actually pursued as a law by government, under the really existing form of government, and under the fictitious entity, called the Constitution, is not the thing actually avowed by both parties, may be seen without other trouble than the turning over a few leaves.
Mr. Martin, if eyes or Morning Chronicle, April 2, 1825, do not deceive me,—Mr. Martin of Galway, treading in the right honourable secretary’s steps, and with a copy of the above speech, I presume, in his memory,—stands engaged, on the 12th of May, to extend his protection to judges, and I know not what besides. While his protection was confined to the helpless and persecuted part of the creation, I followed the honourable gentleman at an humble distance. But, if nothing will serve him but the extending it to those bipeds with gowns and wigs, instead of feathers, whom I had almost called v—n, which would have been as bad as refuse,—to those whose every-day occupation is depredation, and every-day-employed instrument a lie,—here I feel it impossible to go on with him. Were it my good fortune to be honoured with his confidence, I would beg him to stop where he is, and not suffer a hand admired (and vainly endeavoured to be made ridiculous) for its beneficence, to be converted into a cat’s-paw: let those (I would say to him) let those who are to eat the chesnut, put paws upon pates, and beg for it.
Let me not be mistaken. When I had like to have said v—n, what I had in view were fee-fed judges: the only sort, alas! which Matchless Constitution has yet bred: men, to whom, and so much more than to the man of finance, we are indebted for the so little less than universal denial of justice. If, instead of adding, he would substitute salaries to fees, I would consent to shut my eyes against the amount, howsoever extravagant it might prove.
The fees to be compounded for would have been—not only the fees avowedly extorted, but the unhappily so much more abundant stock surreptitiously received: received by these so erroneously supposed uncorrupt hands. They would be—not only the fees exacted by superintendents in their own name, but all those exacted under their authority, by respective subordinate holders of offices, of which they have the patronage. For, who is there that does not know that an office in a man’s gift has a no less decided marketable value than an office of the same emolument in his possession? True it is that, compared with the value of the possession, the value of the patronage may be to any amount less: not less true is it, that it may also be, and that it not unfrequently is, fully equal. Let Lord Eldon say, how much less worth to him the many thousands a-year he has put into his son’s pocket are, than if it had been his own? Let Mr. Peel, if he feels bold enough, look into the documents, and tell us, in his place, how many those thousands are.
To the number of the offices, the emolument of which a man can pocket with his own hand, there are limits: to the number of the offices, the emoluments of which he can thus pocket through other hands, there are no limits; and, in any number of instances, the protégé’s life may be worth more than the patron’s.
Who is there that does not know, that the value of an office to the incumbent is directly as the emolument, and inversely as the labour? Who is there that does not know, that to the patron the value of it is directly as the inaptitude of the protégé he has it in his power to put in and keep in it, since the more consummate this inaptitude, the less his choice is narrowed? Who is there, for example, that does not know, that it is to the union of these two characters that spiritual offices in particular are indebted for their transcendent value? Who is there that can deny, that while this mode of payment lasts, interest is, in all judges, at daggers-drawn with duty?—that it is from this cause that suits take up as many years as they need do hours, and as many pounds as they need do pence?
Who is there that can deny, that it is from this cause that our system of judicial procedure is what it is?—and that, through the whole texture of it,—judges having been the manufacturers,—delay, expense, and vexation, having been maximized, for the sake of the profit extractible out of the expense?
Yes: by such hands made, to no other end could it have been directed.
The Chief-Justice of the King’s Bench, has he not the nomination to the keepership of the prison named after his judicatory? If so, then to the profits of the bench are added the profits of the tap: and the money which justice would have returned to the hands of the creditor, is extracted, through this channel also, into the pockets of the judge.
Same question as to other chiefships,—whether, as between one and another, consistency in this respect, or inconsistency, is the rule: also of that which is about to be squeezed by jailor out of debtors and creditors, how much is, in advance, squeezed out of him by judge? questions these, none of them surely unfit to be put by Mr. Peel before he gives his support to the advocate of innoxious beasts and pre-eminently noxious judges.
Originally, though pregnant with depredation and oppression as it could not but be, payment by fees was matter of necessity: for judicature was necessary before kings had money to pay salaries.
For these three-and-thirty years past, it has been without excuse. The corruption continued, has been continued with open eyes.
When the trade of trading justices was put an end to—(this was the name then given to Middlesex magistrates)—it was undoubtedly for this same cause; it was because, in their small way, they made and protracted suits, for the purpose of multiplying fees.
When this small branch of the trade was put an end-to, it was by the selfsame remedy I am now venturing, with how little hope soever, to propose. So far as concerned corruption, success could not be more complete. Salaries were substitutes to fees, and in that form the plague ended.
When fees had thus given place to salaries, what disorder there was took an opposite turn. While the fees flowed into the judicial pocket, there was too much activity; now that, if any come in, they take a different direction, if report is to be believed (see above, p. 336,) there is not enough of it. Lethargic, not excitative, is now the character of the disease. Beyond comparison more mischievous than the lethargic is the excitative, though, when the specific is applied, so much easier to cure.
If in the case of the trading judges called magistrates, the remedy was needful, how much more bitterly needful is it not in the case of the trading judges called judges!—Look to mischief, profit, temptation, check: Look to the two fields of mischief; take measure of their extent.
Under the trading justices, the delay manufactured may be reckoned by days: under the trading judges, by years.
Under the trading justices, expense imposed on suitors may be reckoned by shillings: under the trading judges, by hundreds and by thousands of pounds.
Of the jurisdiction of the trading justices, local field, Middlesex, with or without the now added three other home counties; of the trading judges, England: local field, in both cases, far too irregular for measurement. Chaos bids defiance to the theodolite: what is sufficient is—that in the case of the trading justices, the sum of the scraps is a trifle, compared with what it is in the case of the trading judges.
Under the trading justices, the profits of the trade may be reckoned by hundreds a-year: under the trading judges, by more than as many thousands.
Honourable gentlemen,—will they always be so weak as to believe, or so transparently insincere as to pretend to believe, that while the temptation afforded by the hundreds was irresistible, the temptation afforded by the thousands was, is, or can ever be, without effect? Mr. Peel,—does he believe this? His noble, learned, and consistent friend, who, if you will believe him, is purity itself,—does he believe this?
Honourable gentlemen,—will they always believe, or affect to believe, that it is in the power of a masquerade dress to change man’s nature, and that a contagion, which a coat could not resist, has been, and is, resisted by a gown with a strip of fur sewed to it? Mr. Peel,—does he believe this? The noble, learned, and consistent friend, who is faith as well as purity personified,—does he believe this?
So much for mischief—profit—temptation. Now as to check, in one sense of the word, responsibility.
The trading justices had judges over them: judges, by whom,—if haply, in an extreme case, money could be raised sufficient to buy a hearing for a cry for punishment,—they might be punished:—judges, who, though not fond of punishing any man with a king’s commission in his pocket—might thereupon, by fear of shame, be peradventure driven so to do, if the case were flagrant.
The trading justices had judges over them. To any practical purposes, the trading judges have none: head of them all is the Lord Chancellor: head over himself is Lord Eldon: over Lord Eldon in Chancery, Lord Eldon in the House of Lords. Charge him with creation or preservation of abuse—of delay, expense, vexation, uncertainty—motive, either none at all, or the profit upon the expense;—he names the inquisitors by whom the inquisition is to be made. The rehearsal of this farce has been performed. When the curtain comes to be drawn up—if there be hardihood enough to draw it up—will the plaudits of a plundered people welcome it?
Remains still untouched the effective responsibility. Impunity wanted much of being complete in the case of the trading justices: it wanted nothing in the case of the trading judges. Here the word responsibility is mockery. Action, none—indictment, none:—pretence of impeachment, a cloak:—consistently with legislation, impeachment is physically impossible. Time would suffice for rendering it so, even if accusers were to be found, and where is the inducement for accomplices to be become—some of them informers, others of them judges?
Thus much for impeachment. Address of both Houses is impeachment under another name.
Trading justices never made law. The trading judges have always made it, continue to make it, and, so long as the pretended law-makers suffer them—which they find no small convenience in doing—will never cease making it.
Yes: made it they always have, and, above all things, for the sake of the trade. Accuse them—you do so in the teeth of a law made by themselves to punish you for it. The counterfeit and judge-made law is even more effectual than a real one would be: for, on each occasion, it is moulded at pleasure: moulded by those who, having made it for the purpose, execute it.
Were I to see a judge taking a bribe—should I tell of it? Not I, if I had common prudence. The person punished would be—not the judge for taking the bribe, but I for telling of it.
Thus, and hence it is—that, on the part—not only of all judges, but of all whom they delight to favour—including all whom “the king delighteth to honour”—virtue is consummate, character immaculate.
But why talk of imaginary things, such as bribes, when by the real things called fees—fees made lawful by those who pocket them—the work of corruption—of sure and self-corruption—is carried on; carried on in open day—carried on without fear or shame—in the face of the so long plundered, and, though so often warned, yet still deluded people?
No: never surely was grosser delusion than that by which English judges are exhibited as models of uncorruption. In whatsoever shapes they could practise corruption without danger, they have always practised it: and of this practice, their system of procedure, composed of depredation and denial of justice, has been the fruit. Never (it is said, and truly) never was English judge known to take a bribe. No, verily; for how should he? Bribery requires two: a receiver and a giver. Receiver a man cannot be, without putting himself into the power of the giver. Since Bacon, no English judge has been weak enough to do so; and so there can be no receiver. This is seen by everybody: and so there can be no giver. What, in England, should induce a judge thus to expose himself, when, without exposing himself, he gets more in abundance than, in any other country, judge ever did by anything he could do to expose himself? What should induce him to take, of this or that man, with fear and trembling, money in the shape of a bribe,—when, by money exacted by taxes, levied on all men without distinction, by force of a law made by his predecessors, or perhaps by himself,—he is permitted, under the name of fees, to pocket more money than judge ever received elsewhere in the shape of bribes? Give a man whatsoever he would steal from you, you may prevent his stealing it: whatsoever a man desires to exact, give him power to exact it by law, you may prevent his exacting it against law. Of this sort is the antiseptic, the infallibility of which has received such ample proof in the case of English judges.
As to bribery so called, what is the real preservative against it? Publicity:—that most efficient and sole safeguard, which these incorruptibles ever have been, and even now, with the eye of the public full upon them, never cease labouring to destroy. A judicatory on which life and death depend, is not (if you will believe Judge Bailey)—is not a court of justice. Why? because if you will admit this, a certain quantity of nonsense, with the word prejudging in it, may suffice for keeping the doors of it closed. Admit this, and you may see the doors of the Westminster Hall judicatories equally closed:—give them this, you may do anything with them: with as little ceremony, they will be ready to give up their own title to the appellation of courts of justice. Were they so to do, no contradiction would the position receive from me: all I should object to is, the practical conclusion drawn from it.
With Lord Eldon you will have little difficulty. He has long been working at the change. So frequently open are the doors of his closet,—to shut the door of his hitherto mostly open court, will be, one of these days, a motion of course. They may, however, be thrown open now and then, for occasions of parade: whereupon Bar will be seen arguing, while Court writes dockets, reads letters, or takes a nap.
A kindred and eminently convenient policy is—the giving to chambers of judicature such a size and form, that no lay-gents can find entrance. True it is, that by this device, ingenious as it is, the guardian influence of the Public-Opinion tribunal cannot be entirely destroyed; for lawyers cannot be altogether prevented from becoming writers, and betraying the secrets of the court. It may, however, by this means, be in no inconsiderable degree weakened. How much more effectual instruments of this policy brick and mortar are, than rules of court can be, is no secret. All that rules could do, is the rendering admission difficult: properly placed, brick and mortar render it impossible.
English judges incorrupt indeed! Those who talk in this strain, what is it they can mean by it? Did they ever see or hear of a judge who was not completely at the command of the corruptor-general? Places for sons, daughters’ husbands, nephews, nieces’ husbands, friends, and friends’ friends—and, to crown all, coronet for self. None of these things are bribes: True, but are they the less irresistible?—are they the less corruptive? But why speak of command? Far short of the real strength of the corruption—of the corruptive longings, and consequent courtings, and consequent compliances with presumed desires,—comes the view which that word gives of it. From any such superior, to any such subordinate authority, no such explicit expressions of will ought to be, none accordingly ever are, issued. Issued? To what end need they be? In a situation of that sort, is there a judge, is there a man, that needs to be told, what will displease, and what will please? To stand assured with sufficient certainty, not a step need any man stir from his own home.
Take, for example, the case of John Hunt. Among the titles of Majesty in this country, is that of most excellent. John Hunt, in his Examiner, says things which go to impugn that title. Lord Chief-Justice Abbott punishes him for this, with loss of £100 under the name of fine, and £90 under the name of costs: costs, of which the honourable house could know at any time, if it chose to know, whether anything, and if anything, how much, directly or indirectly, goes into the pocket of the Chief-Justice.
Now, then, of the thus punished words, wherein consisted the mischief? “Oh,” says his Lordship, or somebody for him, “the feelings of the King were hurt by them.” Hurt by them? How so? This same hurt—how came his Lordship to be so sure of it? This same Majesty that now is—did he ever tell him of it?—did he bespeak any such punishment? No: the questions answer themselves. To be thus assured, his Lordship had no further to look than into his own learned breast, and there he saw them; for, in that repository of fine feeling, what he could not fail to see clearly enough is, that had it happened to himself to hear a man speak in any such strain of his Lordship’s father, he would have been indignant, and not sorry to see the blasphemer punished.
By the king that now is, or by anybody for him, does Lord Chief-Justice Abbott, or Lord Chief-Justice Anybody, need to be told, that obsequiousness to crowns is the road to coronets?
So much for power and glory. Now as to money. If ever there was a judge, on whose incorruptibility the sound of the trumpet was loud, it was the late Lord Camden. His lordship was Lord High Chancellor. His son, on pretence of telling out public money, got out of it an income, which, when he gave it up (a bow upon paper is due to him for it) was worth £27,000 a-year to him. So much for corruptive intercourse, in a case in which it is not bribery. Now for a case in which it would be bribery. Seven-and-twenty guineas in hand, suppose George the Third saying to the Lord Chancellor—“In this suit (naming it) which I have against such an one (naming him) give judgment so and so, and I will give you these seven-and-twenty guineas,”—would his lordship have taken it? Oh fie! fie! what a thought!—this would have been no better than bribery. Multiply the twenty-seven by a thousand—multiply the product by so many years as the income lasted,—and, though assuredly nobody said what nobody had any need to hear, all is consummate purity.
So much for motives, and the influence of them on conduct: to know which, for the purpose of legislation, which is the purpose here in question, never do I look to anything but situation: of individuals I know just nothing, which is just what I want to know. Now as to mischievousness. Of the law thus made, the effect is, and, if it had any, the object was, to establish punishment for everything that can tend to palce in an unfavourable light the character of any king that ever lived; while the whole treasury of reward is applied to the purpose of placing those jewels in the most favourable light possible. Probative force of the evidence being in both cases the same, suppression of evidence in favour of one side, is in effect exactly the same thing as forgery of it in favour of the opposite side. Mischievousness of the practice the same in both cases; wickedness of it the same, though the people as yet have not sufficiently learnt to see it.
Keep in force this law, and with a steady hand give execution and effect to it,—the will of Holy Alliance is done, and history, from being the food, is converted into the poison of the mind. Yes, all history. First, as to the supposed injured dead. The protection granted to the manes of the third George, shall it be refused to those of the second, or those of the first? If yes, at what point, if at any, in the line of ancestry, shall it end? Then as to the supposed injured living: if thus wounded by the aspersions cast upon his royal father, can the king that now is be indifferent to any such, or any other aspersion, cast upon his princely grandfather, his royal great-grandfather, or his first ducal, then royal great-great-grandfather, &c. &c.? If not, then up go we to Egbert and to Fergus, and so on, through Woden, to Japhet and to Adam. At which of all these points does royal tranquillity commence?—that degree of tranquillity which will suffice to render truth and history unpunishable?
In this case, by-the-bye, may be seen, as well as in so many hundred other instances, how much more useful judge-made law is to parliament itself,—constituted as it is, and looking to the ends which, so constituted, it cannot but look to,—than even its own parliament-law could be made. Parliament itself, would it thus dare to destroy the truth of history, and cut up political science by the roots? But innumerable are the things of this sort which it does every day by the hands of judges; and which fear or shame would keep it from doing by its own.
These things (unless the last-mentioned one be an exception) being so manifest, and so almost universally acknowledged to be true, that, on account of their notoriety, the very mention of them is tedious,—what less can follow, than that to all purposes to which corruptness is to the greatest extent mischievous, a state of constant corruptedness is the state in which every judge has been that ever sat upon the English bench?
In cases between king and subject, in which the mischief of it consists in giving countenance and increase to depredation and oppression, for the benefit of his monarch, his associates, and dependents,—the disease is incurable: its root is in the form of government. But in suits between subject and subject, in which the mischief consists in giving countenance and increase to depredation and oppression by judges (the present judges at all times excepted, whatever they have been, are, or will be) for the benefit of judges, their associates and dependents, the disorder is not incurable.
A few words more as to the remedy, but for which the disease would not have here been mentioned. The principle has been seen. The public are indebted for it to Lord Colchester. His was the original Middlesex police magistrate act, 32d Geo. III. c. 53, anno 1792. Time enough for amendment, the bill found its way, somehow or other, into my hands. Time for scrutiny I could not afford. My approval was pure and simple. Sheridan opposed it in Honourable House. Objection, increase of patronage—a Whig complaint, never grudged when non-redress is sure: a few words might have dissipated it, but they were words that could not be heard there. Subject of the objection—either the source of the delegated power, or the quantum of it. Applied to the source, the objection (an unanswerable one) went to the form of government; it applied to every part, present and future, of the official establishment; applied to the quantum, it supposed a certain quantity of corruption needful: and, as such, requiring to be protected from censure by the word influence: all above needless; and, that it might be game for the Whig hunt, licensed to be hallooed at by its proper name. Applied to every future addition to the establishment, the objection sought the exclusion of every good, to the introduction of which,—and the perpetual continuance and increase of every evil, to the diminution of which,—any such addition should be necessary.
No such desire as that of applying a bar to the increase—to the addition of corruption to influence—was really entertained. In Honourable House, the disposition to keep influence within its bounds, whatever they were, had place or it had not. If no, objection to increase was useless: if yes, cancelling an equal quantity of sinecure would afford the same general security, without depriving the public of the benefit of the particular measure.
To return to the true remedy: it was a specific. In the finance committee of 1797 and 1798—the groundwork of such an economy as the form of government admits of—Lord Colchester applied it, and with success, to some of the administration offices. It stopped there. Judicial corruption was in an ark too sacred to be touched. In both Houses, whatsoever was learned would have been in a state of insurrection. Learned lords were above shame. Ministers were not above fear: so there the reform rested.
Since then the public mind has made some advance: whether sufficient for the substituting of justice to depredation and corruption, time will show.
To return to Mr. Martin and his new protégés. By his humanity he got nothing but ridicule: from his liberality he may hope better fortune. No honourable gentleman, who, for self, son, brother, cousin, or friend, has ever refreshed his eyes with a glimpse of the remuneration fund, can consistently harbour a doubt of the insufficiency of it. Whigs form no exception: for, though possession is not theirs at any time, expectancy is at all times. In the maximization of expense, it unites them in interest with judges. With what aspect they behold the county courts bill may be seen without looking at their eyes. Saving to suitors would be robbery to these their protectors, while in the patronage they have no share. Everything they say against it—everything they can seek to clog it with—is a certificate in favour of it. A measure with this object cannot have a stronger one.
By this his liberating scheme, who knows how many supporters he may not have brought over for his humanity scheme? How profound soever their contempt for their betters (for, when educated, as they sometimes are, and always may be, quadrupeds have the virtues without the vices of featherless bipeds) how profound soever their contempt—how complete soever their indifference—men’s hatred for these animals, can it, to any considerable extent, be greater than their love for themselves?
As to his instrument of purchase—his announced vermin-gorging bill—he could not have chosen a more promising one. This measure is of the number of those, which even an opposition member may be admitted to carry, and in which success can scarce be dubious. Reasons are ready stationed in each honourable breast. They stand upon a rock; and calculation is the name of it. What will my share of the annual charge amount to? A few half-pence a-year—what I toss now and then to a beggar to get rid of him when he is troublesome. Thus much on the debtor side: now, per contra creditor. So many more thousands a-year for my son, my nephew, my cousin, or though it were but my cousin’s cousin, when his time comes, which it can scarce fail to do, for taking his seat in a certain place. For, calculation being settled in the head, then, from hand or lungs, comes the substance of the universally-received economico-mathematical truism—official aptitude is in the direct ratio of ditto remuneration:—a proposition, which, to render it really true, requires nothing but the substituting to the word direct, the word inverse. Thereupon comes a flower or two, such as the right honourable secretary’s rhetoric has just been seen scattering over the subject:—virtue, displayed and appealed to, generosity: dignified virtue displayed, in the penetration manifested, by seeing through the cloud which the word economy (pronounced with a shake of the head—“poor economy!”) had, in the head of vulgar ignorance, thrown over the question. Natural and customary result,—“hear him! hear him!” from all quarters. Is anything ever said on the other side? If yes, it is for form’s sake, with a sort of faint, and as if self-condemning tone; nor even this but under the most satisfactory assurance, that the measure will not be hurt by it.
While upon this ground, I cannot pass over altogether an error—for such I am persuaded it is—on the part of Mr. Peel, as to a matter of fact, and which remained unnoticed before, because foreign to the purpose. In England, according to him (No. 8,) judges are worse paid than “in almost any other country in the world.” Not that, even if admitted, the fact would serve his purpose: it would run counter to his purpose. For, if not the only incorruptible, English judges (so almost everybody has hitherto been in the habit of saying) are of all in the world the most incorruptible. Well then—this incorruptibility—forasmuch as by what you are paying for it you have got it already,—why pay anything more for it? This question would be unanswerable, were it not for the argument ad verecundiam: men, who perform so charmingly, can you be so ungenerous as to let them serve at an under price, when it would be so easy for you to give them a fair price? The argument is worthy of the nursery, and perhaps has been inherited from it. The child is gorged with meat, but spies out cake, and cries for it. “Dear sweet poppet!” says grandmother to mother, “can you be so hardhearted as to let it cry on, only to save a little bit of cake?”
So much for argument: now for fact. Talking with a Frenchman t’other day on this subject, £50 a-year, he assured me—£50, and no more, is the salary of that class of judges, by which by far the greatest part of the business is done. “Well, but don’t they take bribes?”—“No such thing. On the contrary, the country is universally satisfied with them:” just what we have seen the right honourable secretary assuring us of, in the case of the £600 a-year magistrates. The right honourable secretary, having it in charge to find his £600 a-year insufficient, its sufficiency notwithstanding, had somewhat of a bias upon his own mind. According to the right honourable secretary, with these his £600 a-year magistrates the country is universally satisfied. But then, as has been seen, though satisfied, he is at the same time dissatisfied with them: and besides, their aptitude being to be proved as well as disproved, he had something of a bias, though a shifting one, upon his mind. The Frenchman had no such bias. He is himself neither judge, magistrate, nor lawyer; nor patron, with reference to any who are. He is a man of estate, birth, and connexion; and, though all that, a man of information and discernment. It did not occur to me to cross-examine him as to fees: but, as what we were talking about turned upon what was the whole of the emoluments, I cannot but think that if there are fees, they are fees of which neither the magnitude can be increased, nor yet the number extended, otherwise than by the satisfaction afforded by good judicature; and that, if any at all, the £50 does not receive from them any such increase as would affect the argument. I for my part would not give for them another £50.
This, though, if it were anything to the purpose, it might surely serve for inquiry,—is not official: what follows is. Printed “Register of Officers and Agents, &c. prepared at the department of state.” Date of Congress Resolution, 27th April, 1816. Printed anno 1818, at Washington, page 18. Judiciary of the United States Supreme Court. Chief Justice, dollars 4000; not so much as pounds 1000. No equity, put above law, to stop and overrule it. Compare this with Lord Eldon’s £23,000 a-year (those who make least of it make this) with so many other thousands for his son; not to speak of the thousands a-year salaries of the minor and common-law chiefships, and puisneships, and masterships, besides the ever corruptive fees. Before the words, “every other country,” stands indeed, in one of the reports of the right honourable secretary’s speech (No. 8,) the limitative word “almost:” let any one judge whether it was not a prudential one.
A thing more to be wished than hoped for is—that, in the right honourable secretary’s situation, and those associated with it, right honourable gentlemen and noble lords were a little more careful than they sometimes are, when speaking to facts, especially distant and complex ones, such as those in questions like this more especially. By Lord Liverpool, not many years ago, if recollection does not greatly deceive me—by Lord Liverpool it was declared and insisted upon, that in this country (population for population he could not but mean) the expense of the official establishment was less than in the United States. Proceeding in this strain, had he entered upon particulars, the King (he would have had to say) costs this country less than the President does the United States. So much for first treasury lord. Right honourable secretary—would he, after speaking upon the particular branch of the expenditure now in hand, as he has done—would he, after parliamentary inquiry into the facts, consent to pay the judicial establishment upon the same scale as it is paid, in that country, in which, to use his own phrase, it is so much less parsimoniously paid than in this? Not he indeed! What is it (he would then turn upon us and ask) what is it to the purpose, what people do in other countries?—in countries in which the state of things is so different from what it is in our own? Is it for us to receive laws from other countries?
In a committee of his own nomination, will he be pleased to elicit the evidence by which the correctness of this assertion of his will be proved? He knows better things. What use, he would ask, is getting up evidence from which nothing is to follow? Lord Liverpool—will he consent to assign, to the whole official establishment, the same rate of remuneration as that which has place in the United States—general government and particular states, always included? To no such insidious proposal would his lordship give acceptance. His love for the people and for economy is too sincere, to suffer him to pledge himself to an innovation, from which the dear people would have nothing to gain and so much to lose.
On pain of ignominy, a helpless radical must maintain, whether he will or no, some caution in regard to his facts: were he to make a slip, he would never hear the last of it. High situation places a man at his ease in regard to facts. As often as occasion requires, he may let fly insinuations or assertions, such as the above, and thenceforward hear no more of them than he pleases. Should any unpleasant use of them be endeavoured to be made, up comes the rule: “No allusion to anything said in a former debate.” Good, if responsibility be good for nothing: not so clearly so, if responsibility be good for anything. So far as regards facts, it is a counterpart to that mendacity licence, which, in Scotch Reform and elsewhere, has been held up to view as one of the pillars and main instruments of English judicature.
Throughout this examination, I have never been altogether free from feelings of compunction, at the thoughts of the sort of liberty all along taken with the author of the special jury bill. On the present occasion, I found him doing as, in his place, everybody else has done. On that other occasion, I see him taking a course peculiar to himself. Time does not at this moment permit me so much as to read the bill: I cannot therefore, on the ground of any opinion of my own, venture to say a syllable of it. But, if it does but completely substitute, as I am assured it does, lot to packing, and is in other respects what it has been certified to be by those whose discernment and love of justice I stand assured of, it will, by this one measure, ensure to him a stock of popularity and public confidence, such as I tremble but to think of.*
Should this measure be carried through, he must however content himself, as well as he can, with the reputation of probity: for as for that of consistency, it will quit him, and seek refuge in its chosen seat, the bosom of his noble and learned friend. Consistency being where it is,—how anything of this sort should have found its way into the secretary of state’s office, is the mystery of mysteries!
One word more as to patronage. On the present occasion, it is to the lessening the value of it to the honourable secretary that my endeavours, such as they are, have been applying themselves. Yet, so far am I from grudging him any good thing obtainable without preponderant evil to the community—in the case of the county courts bill, no desire a man in his place can have, for feeling the patronage of it is in his own hands, can be more sincere than mine for seeing it there. Supposing the situation equally acceptable to the only class of expectants worth providing for, here is a stock of patronage worth at least three times as much as that other.
County court judges, thirty: salary of each, £800: this gives £24,000 a-year—thrice as much as the £6000.
No hands can I find anywhere, which, in point of aptitude (Matchless Constitution standing as it stands) would bear a thought in comparison of his. Lord lieutenants?—they are so many invisible objects. In the high court of public opinion, nobody will see them—nobody will know who they are. The judge chosen by each will be chosen of the family most connected in the county, which is as much as to say, the most unapt that could be chosen. Armed as he is like any Achilles, still the place of a secretary of state is at the bar of public opinion, and he stands an object to all eyes. Here are mine, for example, weak as they are, yet better perhaps than none, thus watching him: could they keep running after thirty, or I don’t know how many more, Lord lieutenants?
Chancellors!—“aye—there’s the rub.” Sooner than see the patronage in the hands of the model of consistency, or even of any other English fee-fed judge,—sooner, much sooner, would I see it added to the portefeuille of the Chancellor of France.
SPEECH of Mr. Secretary Peel, on introducing the Police Magistrates’ Salary Increase Bill, 21st March 1825. Extract reported in the Times and the Morning Chronicle, of the 22d:—
He held in his hand papers, from which, if he chose to enter into any detail, he could prove to the satisfaction of the committee, that since the institution of police magistrates, the business which devolved on those individuals had, owing to various acts of parliament which had been passed, independently of the increase of population, greatly augmented. Although that circumstance would of itself be a sufficient reason for increasing the salary of the magistrates, he rested his proposition upon grounds which he hoped the committee would consider even more satisfactory.
When the police magistrates were first appointed, it was the practice to select individuals to fill the office who, he must say, were incompetent to discharge the duties which devolved upon them. He found from the papers which had been laid upon the table, that out of twelve police magistrates appointed at a former period, there were only three barristers; the rest were composed of a major in the army, a starch-maker, three clergymen, a Glasgow trader, and other persons who, from their occupations, could not but be considered as utterly unqualified to perform the duties of magistrates.
The law had fixed no limitation with respect to the previous education of persons appointed to the office of magistrate, but he thought the committee would be pleased to hear, that a limitation on that point had been prescribed by the secretary of state. Neither his predecessor in office (Lord Sidmouth) nor himself had ever appointed a person to fill the office of magistrate who had not been a barrister of three years standing. That was a rule to which, in his opinion, it was most desirable to adhere.
But in order to enable the secretary of state to abide by that rule, and to carry it into practice, it was necessary to augment the present salary of police magistrates. He implored the House to consider, whether £600 a-year (the present salary) was sufficient to induce a barrister to give up the emoluments of private practice, and the hope of preferment in his profession, to undertake the duties of a magistrate,
which required their almost constant attendance? It could not, he thought, be considered an unreasonable proposition, that in future the secretary of state should be empowered to give to each police magistrate the sum of £800 per annum.
He hoped that he should not be told, that individuals might be found, who would be willing to undertake the magisterial duties for a less sum. It was very true that such was the case. He was constantly receiving applications from persons who were anxious to be appointed police magistrates. Those applications proceeded principally from country magistrates, who had discharged the duties of their officeably and satisfactorily; but whom, nevertheless, he did not think right to appoint to be police magistrates in the metropolis. He held the unpaid magistracy in as high respect as any man, but he could easily conceive that a gentleman might, in consequence of the influence which he derived from local circumstances—the relations of landlord and tenant for instance—be able to discharge the duties of a country magistrate in a satisfactory manner, who would be incompetent to undertake the important ones of a police magistrate.
“Police magistrates” was the name generally given to those magistrates to whom he alluded; but those persons were mistaken who supposed that the duties which they had to perform were merely executive. They were called upon to administer the law in a great number of complicated cases which were submitted to them. Out of some recent acts of parliament some very important questions arose, which the police magistrates were called upon to decide. Several nice cases had occurred under the building act. He knew one case of that description, which had occupied the attention of the magistrates for a couple of days, during which surveyors had been examined on both sides. He thought that a salary of £800 a-year was not more than a fair remuneration for the practice which a barrister must abandon when he undertook the duties of a magistrate.
It appeared to him, that the individuals appointed to administer justice in this country were more parsimoniously dealt with than in almost any other country in the world. He thought this was poor economy, to give inadequate remuneration to individuals selected to administer justice, whether in the highest office of judge, or in the less important but still very important office of police magistrate.
He might, he did not doubt, get persons—
those persons who could not succeed in their profession—the refuse of the bar—to fill the office of police magistrate at a lower salary than he proposed to give—he could save £100 or £200 a-year by such a proceeding, but the public would have cause to lament it.
The present police magistrates were of the highest personal respectability, and performed their duties to the great satisfaction of the country. They were thirty in number, only four of whom were not barristers. The right honourable gentleman concluded with moving—“That it is the opinion of the committee, that each justice appointed, or to be appointed, under the act for the more effectual administration of the office of justice of the peace, shall receive a salary not exceeding £800.
He held papers in his hand, showing in the clearest manner the great increase that had taken place in the business of the police offices since their first institution, arising from the great increase of the population of the metropolis, amongst other causes. It appeared from those papers, that since their first establishment, considerable additions had been made to the business of the offices, by various acts of parliament, passed at different times, but he would lay his proposition upon stronger grounds.
In the first instance, the salaries of the magistrates amounted only to £400 per annum; it was afterwards raised to £600; but it was well known, that under the former regulation the persons appointed were totally incompetent to the duties. He found, that of the twelve magistrates first appointed, three were barristers. One was a major, three clergy-men, two starch-dealers, and one a Glasgow trader.
He thought the committee would be pleased to hear, that though there was no limitation fixed by law to determine the eligibility of the persons to fill such offices, Lord Sidmouth and himself had confined themselves strictly to the appointment of barristers alone, and had not nominated any to the office of magistrate who were of less than three years standing. He would ask the committee, under those circumstances,
whether £600 a-year could be sufficient to tempt a professional man of adequate abilities to relinquish his hopes of rising at the bar?
The duties at the office would require his constant attendance, and the committee, he thought, would not consider it unreasonable to empower the secretary of state to grant them each a salary, not exceeding £800 a-year.
It was true, he might be told that there were many individuals now ready to accept those offices: but though that was certainly the case, they were most of them country gentlemen, who had discharged the duty of magistrates in their respective counties; but that was no reason why they should be selected to fill the situation of police magistrates in the metropolis. He respected, as much as any man could, the unpaid magistracy of the country; but it did not follow, that because they were enabled by the weight of their character and influence to perform the ordinary routine duties of county magistrates, they were competent to discharge the more arduous business of the police in this city.
Many acts of parliament had increased the duties of those offices; important questions in civil causes often came before them, and under the building acts they were often obliged to hear the evidence of surveyors on each side, and to determine many points which required a considerable degree of legal knowledge. He would rather rest his proposition on that single statement, than enter into the details contained in the papers which he held in his hands.
It appeared to him, that this country was more parsimonious in its provisions upon the administration of justice than any other, and he was sure that there could not be a worse economy than such saving, either with regard to the highest or to inferior officers.
The great object should be to procure persons qualified to discharge the duties [hear! hear!]
To tell them that they might take the refuse of the bar, would be to recommend a course which the public would soon have reason to lament. Upon those grounds he trusted that the committee would not consider the addition of £200 a-year to their present salaries too much to remunerate them for the services of the police magistrates.
They were acquainted with the character of the individuals who filled those offices at present. Their knowledge, experience, and respectability, were unquestionable. They were thirty in number, and their services had already proved the importance of the duties they had to fulfil. The honourable gentleman concluded with moving a resolution—“That each of the justices appointed, or to be appointed, to the police offices of the metropolis, shall be allowed a salary not exceeding £800 a-year, to be paid by one of his Majesty’s principal secretaries of state.”
[* ]Draft of a Judicial Establishment for the use of the French National Assembly. Vide Vol. IV. p. 285, et seq.
[† ]1. Constitutional Code, Judiciary Part. 2. Procedure Code, preceded by the Judiciary Part of the Constitutional Code.
[* ]Vide p. 163 and const. code, ch. ix. § 16.