Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

in his Bill, modifying the Act of James I. I would allow a judge the power to say, that a debtor may pay by instalments, on giving a good security, and I would leave the whole matter to the judge's legal discretion. The consequence would be, that property would not be uselessly torn from a man—that needless delays would not be interposed to obstruct the adjustment of his affairs, and that his creditors would be afforded a cheap, safe, and expeditious mode of recovering their respective claims. Parties would be prevented from seeking delay by incurring the formidable expense of going to trial, and afterwards of taking out writs of error, were these measures adopted; and I have great hopes that they will be adopted.

I have said little or nothing on the subject of costs, and yet it is one of great importance, and immediately connected with this discussion. Should a man ask my opinion as to whether he should institute an action in a certain case, I would not advise him, or any man, to do so against a pertinacious debtor. He might get a verdict for 201., the amount of his claim, but he would have, perhaps, 301. or 401. to pay in the way of costs for the action. I have known an instance in which the action was on a bill for 4281., and the costs amounted to 2021. The plaintiff gained in every stage of the proceedings, and he lost, in the end, 2021. In another case, where the verdict was for 2171., the costs amounted to 761. In the Court of Exchequer, where the expense of law proceedings is not, comparatively speaking, great, I have known a case where the demand was for 631., and the costs were 141. ; another, where the demand was for 481., and the costs amounted to 241. The same costs are incurred, whether the action be instituted for 60l. or 6001. Similar costs will be incurred, whether the plaintiff's demand be under or over 1001. How can such a state of things be remedied? Obviously by establishing better rules of law. The attorneys have been deprived of certain charges on divers matters, and they make amends for that by increasing their charges on other matters. They are not at present allowed to charge for a consultation with counsel, a thing in many cases frequently necessary ; they are not allowed to charge for preparing the cause for trial; and they are not allowed the expenses of the witnesses required to sustain it. In an action for 228l., I have known the expenses incurred in procuring witnesses to amount to 1471. I would adopt a different practice ; I would enable a plaintiff to see his way in the bringing of an action, so that he might be aware of the costs incurred as he proceeded, and that he could stop at an early stage, if he did not feel it prudent to incur more expense. You see the evil effects produced by a partial change of the law. The whole system hangs together ; take away one portion, and instead of consolidating, you disturb and disjoint the remainder. It is, as in the physical body, where you can never cure a fracture, unless you attend to and examine the system at large. What would be thought of a surgeon who should set about reducing an apparent luxation, without previously ascertaining whether a false joint had been formed ? You must look at the whole system of the law together, in order to arrive at a temperate and proper reformation of its abuses. Are you afraid of changes ? We have, I can inform you, great authority on our side. I need not travel to the reformers of the laws of Scotland-of a people as jealous of their rights, and justly so, as any under the sun. There were none so prone to change, improvement, and consolidation, as the old lawgivers of Scotland. Before the Justinian code, it is said the civil law was comprised in 2000 volumes : your own statute-book furnishes another sad example of the accumulation of laws. The whole statutes of Scotland are comprised in three small duodecimos. Will you hesitate to reform when you behold it effect such benefits? I take my authority from Lord Hale, than whom there never existed a man more firmly attached to the constitution of the country. He says, “ By long use and custom men especially that are aged, and have been long educated to the profession and practice of the law, contract a kind of superstitious veneration of it beyond what is just and reasonable. They tenaciously and rigorously maintain those very forms and proceedings and practices, which, though possibly at first they were seasonable and useful, yet by the very change of matters they become not only useless and impertinent, but burdensome and inconvenient, and prejudicial to the common justice and the common good of mankind ; not considering the forms and prescripts of laws were not introduced for their own sakes, but for the use of public justice; and therefore, when they become insipid, useless, impertinent, and possibly derogatory to the end, they may and must be removed."-Such is the language of Lord Hale. I could also adduce the authority of another great lawyer, Mr. Shepherd, to the same effect. I may also refer you to an extremely able work, lately published by Mr. Parkes, the solicitor at Birmingham, entitled, “ A History of the Court of Chancery.". It displays great learning, and considerable research into the history of the common law.

The Parliament of the Commonwealth, in 1654, appointed a committee to reform the laws. Who was appointed at the head of that committee? The then member for Cambridge-Oliver Lord General Cromwell. He, indeed, was of a more martial character than my learned friend opposite, the present representative for that University. If Lord General Cromwell's name were the first on the list of the committee in the House, which was first on that out of the House (for the members of the com

mittee were selected both in and out of the House)? The name of Matthew, afterwards Sir Matthew Hale, occupies that station. He was, I need not add, the greatest lawyer of his day. That committee proposed various remedies: amongst others, the establishment of a small debt court—of a county court—of a court for fraudulent debtors—the formation of a general registry; and they likewise recommended that defendants in criminal actions should be allowed to examine witnesses on oath in their defence. Such was not the law at that period. It was reserved for the times of Queen Anne to see thisjudicious recommendation of the committee of the Cromwellian Parliament carried into effect. After the Restoration, a committee was appointed to examine the laws, and to propose such remedies as they considered necessary. There were fifty-one lawyers on that committee. Three or four bills were introduced by them, and passed through several stages in this House for the general amendment of the law. - -

I now wish you to institute a similar inquiry. I call on you to enter speedily and rigorously into an examination of the present state of the law, with a view to its general amendment. In such a project I expect to receive support from Government. What, it may be asked, are my hopes 2 . I do not expect figs from thorns, nor roses from thistles. But why should not the fig-tree bear fruit, and why should not the rose put forth its perfume 2 . I am no prophet, certainly; but there are members of the present Government whose liberal opinions promise me assistance, and some of whom have given very recentexpression to those opinions. . There are other members of the Government with whom, I lament to say, I differ widely on a great and important question. The gentleman, however, to whom I more particularly allude, satisfactorily, agrees with me on the leading points of the momentous question which I have brought under your notice this night. Is it too much, then, to expect the support of the present administration ? At all events, I repose with confidence on the support of this House. You have a great and glorious race to run; your name will go down to posterity as that of the most useful and important Parliament that ever met. The far-famed conqueror of his time, the victor of Italy and Germany, counted all his triumphs pitiful and not worthy of being mentioned; while his name, he said, would descend to future ages in company with that code which he had established. Try to rival him—not in the desolating paths of war, but in the sacred arts of peace. The flatterers of the Edwards and the Henries compared them to Justinian,—a far higher praise could be with. truth bestowed on that Parliament, and that King, under whose sanction, by whose assistance, counsel, and advice, a thorough and wholesome amendment should be

VOL. XXIX. Pam. NO, LVII. P

effected in the laws of this realm, If a crown, to my simple view, possess any lustre, it is because it enables those who wear it to promote the welfare of mankind. Augustus boasted that he found Rome brick, and that he left it marble. A greater boast may yet be made by your King—that he found the law dear, and that he left it cheap, that he found it a sealed book, and that he left it a volume open to all; that he found it the patrimony of the rich, and that he left it the inheritance of the poor ; that he found it a sword in the hands of oppression and craft, and that he left it the staff of honesty and the shield of the innocent. To me, much reflecting on these things, there is no higher glory to which my ambition could aspire ;—there is no honor which, as a man and a lawyer, I would more greedily covet, than to be the humble instrument of directing your labors to this all-important object. For office, or patronage, or emolument, I care not : I am content with what the labor of my hands supplies me. To me power has no charms: I shall on all occasions fearlessly, and I trust faithfully, support my fellow-countrymen when claiming their just rights; and there is nothing I know of their lawful grievances which I shall not lay before this House and the world. The power to advocate the rights of my fellow-countrymen within these walls, as well as out of these walls,--that is the power which I desire to possess and exercise. It is a power which is given to no changes of the Government, and which cannot be taken away by any Ministry.

Sir, I move, « That an humble address be presented to his Majesty, praying that he will be graciously pleased to issue a commission for inquiring into the abuses which have been introduced in the course of time into the administration of the laws of these realms, and to report on what remedies it may seem fit and expedient to adopt for their removal.”

The proces which i and there is ellower

On the 29th of February, the following Resolution, substituted by Mr. Brougham, with the assent of Ministers, was carried unani mously:

« That an humble address be presented to his Majesty, respectfully requesting that his Majesty may be pleased to take such measures as may seem most expedient for the purpose of causing due inquiry to be made into the origin, progress, and termination of actions in the superior courts of common law in this country, and matters connected therewith; and into the state of the law regarding the transfer of real property."

TO

THE EARL OF ELDON,

ON

THE REPORT OF THE FINANCE COMMITTEE,

BY GEORGE FARREN, Esq.
RESIDENT DIRECTOR OF THE ASYLUM LIFE OFFICE,

LONDON:-1828.

MY LORD, HAVING been permitted the honor of dedicating to your Lordship my works “ On Life Insurance" and « On the Laws of Climate and Disease,” I cannot refrain from calling attention to the speedy confirmation of the truth of the hypothesis therein advanced, and of the correctness of your Lordship's opinions which I have had the honor to record.—This confirmation is rendered by the report of the Finance Committee, which calls the attention of the House to the expediency of repealing the act by which the commissioners for the reduction of the National Debt are empowered to grant Life Annuities.

The necessity for correct estimates of the value of human life appears to have been fully appreciated by your Lordship; a conviction arising, no doubt, from your knowlege that few estates in this country are held intirely free from charge, in respect of some life contingency

Your Lordship is so profound a lawyer, that it is only necessary for me to call your recollection to the fact, that the first estimates of the probabilities of human life were made by Ulpian in the third century, to provide for the execution of the Roman law, called Lex Falcidia.

In this country, although many loans for the service of Government were raised on Life Annuities soon after the Revolution, it was not until 1693 that any scientific approximations of the values of life contingencies were made ; indeed, until 1762, so little was known of the business of Life Insurance, that the two chartered companies charged in every case the same rate of premium, whatever the age of the parties might be.--In 1783, Dr. Price published a fourth edition of his work on reversionary payments, with tables of annuities on lives, deduced from the probabilities of life at Northampton, and as observed in the kingdom of Sweden.

« AnteriorContinuar »