Another long letter from Lord Chief Justice Bovill followed, in which he expressed an opinion that—

"The manifest and expressed intention of the Legislature was, that the new judges of the Privy Council should be men of tried judicial experience, and that this had been clearly indicated not only by the language of the statute itself, but by debates in Parliament. It appeared to me, therefore, as it did to the Lord Chief Justice, and to almost every one in and out of the profession to whom I have spoken upon the subject, that the appointment of Sir R. Collier, though it might be strictly within the words of the Act, was contrary to its spirit and to the intention of the Legislature, and that it was in that sense, and in that sense only, an evasion of the statute."

Mr. Justice Willes, on the other hand, a judge whose position and attainments entitled his views to the highest respect, and who before the close of the year was to deprive the country and the profession of his services by a melancholy act of madness,' recorded his opinion that the appointment was justifiable and within the terms of the statute. "My dear Lord Chancellor," he wrote, "I have no objection to your stating or reading anywhere my views of the appointment of Sir Robert Collier.

"1. The appointment was legal, and within the terms of the statute.

"2. Evasion' of the law, by appointing a fit man according to the law, is a 'sensational' expression. The appointment may have surprised those who had not sufficiently considered the terms of the Act, but it was no evasion of the Act.

"3. Whether Parliament was surprised into passing the Act by any suppression, for which its framers are answerable, is a political question with which I decline to meddle. Parliament must decide that for itself.

"4. I had nothing to do with the Lord Chief Justice's letter to the newspapers, or the correspondence then published. I do not agree to the legal objections there suggested. I much regret that the Judge's opinions should be so advertised.

"5. The practical objection is to the statute itself, for not providing a sufficient inducement to the Judges to accept the office, because of making no provision or compensation for their existing staff. Upon this ground I thought from the beginning that the framers of the Act must have contemplated the appointment of Sir Robert Collier or some other newly-appointed Judge, in the event of Judges of older standing declining the office. It is now, however, clear that this was not the general impression, though I believe that no lawyer upon an impartial construction of the Act could pronounce the appointment to be other than lawful.

"Probably you will prefer reading this letter directed to yourself instead of that written to Sir Robert Collier, which, though in

2 See Chronicle for October.

effect and substance the same, may contain expressions too lively for public reading, an end not thought of at its writing.

"Yours faithfully,

"J. S. WILLES." The meeting of Parliament derived a pleasant interest from the appointment of a new Speaker in the place of John Evelyn Denison, who, after filling the chair with dignity for fifteen years, retired to the House of Lords as Viscount Ossington. He first entered Parliament for Newcastle-under-Lyne, in July, 1823, and would by this time have been nearly, if not quite, the senior member of the House in Parliamentary standing if he had held his seat without intermission. He had gleaned some experience of official duties by holding a senior Lordship of the Admiralty under the administration of Canning, of whose politics he was in early life a consistent supporter. He was never an active partisan in politics, but his name is well known to, and will long be remembered by, social reformers as having been mainly instrumental in the passing of what is known as Evelyn Denison's Act. It may be worth noting here that every Speaker during the present century has been raised to the Peerage-Mr. Addington, as Viscount Sidmouth; Sir John Mitford, as Lord Redesdale; Mr. Abbot, as Lord Colchester; Sir Charles Manners-Sutton, as Viscount Canterbury; Mr. James Abercromby, as Lord Dunfermline; Mr. Shaw-Lefevre, as Viscount Eversley; and now Mr. Evelyn Denison, under the title of Viscount Ossington.

The new Speaker, Henry William Bouverie Brand, entered Parliament, in 1852, as member for Lewes, and, though he never courted distinction as a speaker, had shown himself most intimately acquainted, as well with the rules and usages of the House, as personally with its older members, having long served as "Whip" to the Liberal party. Indeed the fact that he had held this position was in itself a fair objection to the appointment, as creating a dangerous precedent, and it speaks highly for Mr. Brand's personal qualifications, and popularity with both sides of the House, that he was returned nevertheless to his new honours with very general satisfaction.

Parliament was opened by Royal Commission on the 6th of February, and the Queen's Speech, read by the Lord Chancellor, was to the following effect :

"My Lords and Gentlemen,

"I avail myself of the opportunity afforded by your re-assembling for the discharge of your momentous duties to renew the expression of my thankfulness to the Almighty for the deliverance of my dear son, the Prince of Wales, from the most imminent danger, and of my lively recollection of the profound and universal sympathy shown by my loyal people during the period of anxiety and trial.

"I purpose that on Tuesday, the 27th inst., conformably to the good and becoming usage of former days, the blessing thus received shall be acknowledged on behalf of the nation by a thanksgiving

in the Metropolitan Cathedral. At this celebration it is

and hope to be present.

[blocks in formation]

"Directions have been given to provide the necessary accommodation for the members of the two Houses of Parliament.

"The assurances of friendship which I receive from foreign Powers continue to be in all respects satisfactory. I need hardly assure you that my endeavour will at all times be steadily directed to the maintenance of these friendly relations.

"The Slave Trade, and practices scarcely to be distinguished from slave trading, still pursued in more than one quarter of the world, continue to attract the attention of my Government. In the South Sea Islands the name of the British Empire is even now dishonoured by the connexion of some of my subjects with these nefarious practices; and in one of them the murder of an exemplary prelate has cast fresh light upon some of their baleful consequences. A Bill will be presented to you for the purpose of facilitating the trial of offences of this class in Australasia, and endeavours will be made to increase, in other forms, the means of counteraction.

"Various communications have passed between my Government and the Government of France on the subject of the Commercial Treaty concluded in 1860. From a divergence in the views respectively entertained in relation to the value of protective laws, this correspondence has not brought about any agreement to modify that important convention. On both sides, however, there has been uniformly declared an earnest desire that nothing shall occur to impair the cordiality which has long prevailed between the two nations. Papers relating to these subjects will be laid before


"The arbitrators appointed pursuant to the Treaty of Washington for the purpose of amicably settling certain claims known as the 'Alabama' claims have held their first meeting at Geneva.

"Cases have been laid before the arbitrators on behalf of each party to the Treaty. In the case so submitted on behalf of the United States large claims have been included, which are understood on my part not to be within the province of the arbitrators. On this subject I have caused a friendly communication to be made to the Government of the United States.

"The Emperor of Germany has undertaken to arbitrate on the San Juan Water Boundary, and the cases of the two Governments have been presented to his Imperial Majesty.

"The Commission at Washington has been appointed, and is in session. The provisions of the Treaty which require the consent of the Parliament of Canada await its assembling.

"Turning to domestic affairs, I have to apprise you that with very few exceptions Ireland has been free from serious crime. Trade in that part of the United Kingdom is active, and the advance of agricultural industry is remarkable.

"I am able also to congratulate you, so far as present experience allows a judgment to be passed, upon the perceptible diminution of

the number both of the graver crimes and of habitual criminals in Great Britain.

"Gentlemen of the House of Commons,

"The principal Estimates for the coming year have been prepared. They will at once be laid before you, and I trust that you will find them suitable to the circumstances of the country.

"The state of the Revenue affords favourable indications of the demand for employment and the general condition of the peopleindications which are corroborated by a decline of pauperism not inconsiderable.

"My Lords and Gentlemen,

"Your attention will be invited to several measures of acknowledged national interest. Among these there will be Bills for the improvement of Public Education in Scotland, for the Regulation of Mines, for the amendment of what is known as the Licensing System, and in relation to the Superior Courts of Justice and Appeal.

"In particular, a Bill, having for its main object the establishment of secret voting, together with a measure relating to corrupt practices at Parliamentary elections, will be immediately presented to you.

"Several measures of administrative improvement for Ireland will also be laid before you.

"There will likewise be laid before you legislative provisions founded on the Report of the Sanitary Commission.

"You, my Lords and Gentlemen, will, I am confident, again apply your well-known assiduity to that work of legislation which, from the increasing exigencies of modern society, still seems to grow upon your hands. And I shall continue to rely, under Divine Providence, alike on the loyalty of my people and on your energy and wisdom, to sustain the constant efforts of the Crown to discharge the duties, to uphold the rights, and to defend the honour of the Empire."

The Address to the Crown, in answer to the Royal Speech, was moved in the Commons by

Mr. Strutt, who touched seriatim on the various topics mentioned in it, congratulating the country warmly on the recovery of the Prince of Wales, and expressing his cordial agreement in the general legislation proposed by the Government. On the paragraph relating to the French Treaty, he remarked that recent discussions in the Chambers showed the doctrines of Free Trade to be making progress in France, and with regard to the Treaty of Washington he maintained that it was never understood by the English people to include the claims for indirect losses. He hoped, however, that the difficulty would only be temporary, and that a friendly settlement would not be impeded by what had occurred.

Mr. Colman seconded the Address in a brief and able speech, the greater part of which was devoted to proving the soundness of the prosperity of the country. He regretted the misconception in regard to the Geneva Arbitration, expressed a decided opinion that the licensing system must be dealt with, and, as a Nonconformist,

avowed his discontent with some parts of the recent legislation on the subject of Education.

Mr. Disraeli commenced by remarking that since the last Session time had passed more rapidly than usual, and without drawing the usual and convenient veil of oblivion over Parliamentary controversies. This he attributed to the new habit of the Ministry of vindicating its policy during the recess. They "lived in a perpetual blaze of apology," and left nobody time to forget anything. Judging, however, from the notices of motion just given, Mr. Disraeli anticipated that the Ministers would have ample and speedy opportunities of defending themselves, in the face of Parliament, on such matters as Admiralty management and the evasion of Acts of Parliament. Passing to the Speech, he commented in a sarcastic vein on the confused arrangement of its paragraphs, drawing the inference that the ballot was to be confined to Ireland, and that there had originally been a reference to the "third branch of the Upas tree," which had slipped out at the last moment. He regretted that such measures as the Mines Regulation Bill, Sanitary Legislation, &c., should be once more postponed to the ballot, and repeated his determination to offer to the principle of secret voting his unshrinking opposition, though he did not expect to convert a majority of the House to his opinion. Excusing himself from discussing the Speech at length on account of the engrossing nature of one paragraph in it-that relating to the Washington Treaty-he condemned this paragraph as frigid and jejune, utterly inadequate to the occasion. Claiming for himself and his political friends that they had always endeavoured to cultivate friendly relations with the United States, he reviewed minutely the history and provisions of the Stanley-Johnson Convention, pointing out, in reply to a taunt which had been uttered by Lord Granville, that it was rejected by the American Senate because it excluded indirect and constructive claims. Insisting that Mr. Gladstone and Lord Granville had full control and supervision of the negotiations at Washington, and were therefore solely responsible, he canvassed next the terms of the Treaty, pointing out various points to which he objected, particularly the retrospective portion. But he and his friends had not thought it wise to challenge it in Parliament, partly because it was held by high authority that it was legally complete when it was signed. Referring next to the debate in the House of Lords, he called on the Government to explain on what grounds they had stated so confidently that the Treaty excluded claims which he described as "preposterous and wild," and equalling a "tribute from a conquered people," and also whether the United States Government had protested against the ministerial interpretation of the Treaty. Next he asked when the American case was received by our Government and when they had made the " friendly communication" to the American Government. Finally, he urged the duty of speaking out calmly, frankly, and firmly, of avoiding "the Serbonian bog of diplomacy," and of telling the American Government

« VorigeDoorgaan »