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of the session was Solicitor-General, but who now fills the highest forensic office. If any man be more peculiarly fitted than another to render the office of Attorney-General popular, it is Sir John Romilly. But while we join in paying respect to his high character, talents, and legal attainments, we must express some regret that he has not always exhibited a sacred regard for the foundation stone of our liberties—trial by jury. This may arise from his education as a chancery lawyer; his new office will afford him better opportunities of judging of the practical worth of our admirable and too little studied jury system. If he is to achieve success in the great task he has undertaken of carrying out legal reforms, it can only be by clearing away the rubbish which has grown on our noble common-law. An excellent beginning has been made by the reform introduced into the Irish Court of Chancery, which must facilitate and cheapen justice. The first improvement is that which enables the suitor to proceed by petition instead of bill. The non-professional reader will hardly comprehend the distinction, but every one who has tasted of the excitement of a Chancery suit will understand the magnitude of the change in cutting down costs and delay. The power to take vivâ voce evidence is not only an important change for the facility of proceedings, but for the right administration of justice. Å summary machinery is provided in certain cases of common occurrence, which will get rid of a most expensive and utterly useless system of preliminary procedure. Other details, too technical for popular description, will hardly prove less important in practice. The only regret we feel is, that Government did not immediately propose the same system for our own Chancery-courts. The act for the regulation of process and practice in the superior courts of common law in Ireland is also a valuable measure, embodying the uniformity of the English system, and guarding against dishonest disposal of property during process. It introduces some simplification into the system of pleading, and renders the sittings at Nisi Prius continuous. Another act transfers the equity jurisdiction of the Court of Exchequer to Chancery, as has for some time been the case in England. In connexion with these reforms, we may mention two valuable acts for which Ireland is indebted to Sir John Romilly. The first, regulating the registration of deeds, is designed to facilitate and cheapen the sale of real property, by providing a land index, drawn up on the ordnance map, particularizing the locality, names, and titles of possessors of Irish estates; the other relates to judgment claims upon property, which will remove the difficulties so frequently interposed to an unquestionable title. The Crime and Outrages
Act has been continued from the 31st of December until the end of next session; and an important measure has been passed, designed to put an end to the outrages committed by party processions. We may remark in reference to the first, as an illustration of the carelessness of popular rights, that the Government permitted the bill to pass the House of Lords before they discovered that it contained money clauses, consequently the work had to be commenced de noro! Scotland, too, has shared in the benefits by some reforms connected with the Court of Session. As regards the English courts, we have to mention a partial reform of Chancery abuses, under the auspices of Mr. Turner. An act to diminish the delay and expense of proceedings in the High Court of Chancery in England,' introduces a very valuable system of procedure, which has been attended with marked good results in the common law courts-namely, of submitting special cases' for the opinion of the Court. Another provision will enable executors or administrators of deceased persons to ascertain whether there are any outstanding debts or liabilities affecting the personal estates of such persons, without the delay and expense of suits to administer. This act will come into operation at the commencement of Michaelmas term. Lord Brougham has evidently been too much occupied with the weight of judicial duty unexpectedly thrown on him this session to make much progress.
But his views as to the importance of consolidating particular branches of our statute law are gaining ground. A codification of laws would be a labour worthy of the century. A Hungarian lawyer compiled the Urbarium of Maria Theresa in thirteen years, for a supply of Tokay from the royal cellars. We have surely amongst our learned lawyers, who cultivate that noble learning as a science, men able and sufficient to digest our statute book in half the time.
The improvement of the science of special pleading has not escaped notice, but, as usual with Whig reformers, a parliamentary bill has degenerated into a royal commission. The labour is a delicate one. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to substitute a more logically perfect system of statement to bring parties to issue; but time and pettifogging have introduced many abuses which still remain to be cut away. Unfortunately this is a question which can only be understood by lawyers, and there is a professional bias amongst the heads of the bar for things as they are; thanks to our degenerate system, or no system, of legal education, which teaches men from the time they eat their commons till they mount the bench to treat law as a collection of recollections,' not as a great and liberal science.
The minor legal reforms will excite less respect. Foremost in this group is the County Courts Extension Act, introduced by Col. Fitzroy. This is an act, to say the least, of very hasty legislation. The principle of local tribunals for the administration of justice in a cheap and speedy form, is undoubtedly an admirable one; but there is another principle of equal importance, and that is, the efficient administration of justice, coincident with the preservation of our rights and liberties. The county courts, in strict consistency with the modern principle of action, were avowedly established as experiments; and have not yet been sufficiently tested. It is no argument to say that so many thousand plaints have been disposed of in so many months; Haynau and his butcher associates might make the same parade of their disposals. We have to look at the character of the justice dealt out. Now though rumour is not always trustworthy, there is proof to support a very common rumour that strange freaks are at times played in some of these county courts. “County-court justice' is becoming as much a proverb as “ judge-made law' has long been. To some extent these tribunals have already succeeded in destroying the certainty of the law as affects the commonest affairs of life. This is a natural result of destroying, or discouraging the jury system, and leaving judges, in a multitude of cases, to decide according to their own notions of right and wrong, with little responsibility to any power, and with no appeal from their judgment. To make the system work with any regard to uniformity and certainty of legal administration, it is clear that the first requisite was a digested code of laws applicable to these courts. At present, what is law in one county, is not law in the adjoining jurisdiction. The limitation of jurisdiction to a particular sum is a palpable absurdity; for, if a judge is qualified to determine rightly and justly in a debt for £20, why not in £200 or £2,000 ? Legal principles do not depend on the amounts involved. Colonel Fitzroy's extension only increases the absurdity. There was a shadow of reason in the argument for £20, that the right of arrest stopped there; why did Colonel Fitzroy, in his fast career, stop short at £50? Surely the plaintiff for £100 has as much right to cheap law and bad justice as the happy creditor for £50. The system is radically bad, The public, in its insatiate thirst for cheapness, would have the courts; and the Whigs were only too ready to give a covert blow to the jury system, and provide for a numerous family of Whiggishly disposed lawyers, who had grown grey in waiting for briefs. The public have now to thank Parliament for giving them a right of appeal to tribunals where some certainty of legal administration prevails. County-court justice will meet the public gaze, and we venture to predict that before many years roll there will be a reaction in public feeling, which must lead to a complete reform of the county-court system, on some legal and common-sense principle. By another act, Parliament has given these courts jurisdiction over charities individually small, but presenting an aggregate of large amount.
But the Larceny Summary Jurisdiction Act is a measure of a more obnoxious and unconstitutional character. It is the most direct blow given in modern times to trial by jury. As is usual in measures of this character, the tyrannic provisions are skilfully disguised under plausible pretences. Parliament waxed so sentimental in the beginning of the dog days, that it forthwith abolished fair trial for all juvenile offenders, and handed them over to the tender mercies of the squirarchy. Fortunately the act was much crippled before it reached the Throne; but enough remains to rouse all men who have the souls of freemen. It is not very often that we can compliment the Tories for liberality ; but to their honour be it said, they have rescued young men from the torture of the whip at the discretion of any two fox-hunting justices sitting in a back parlour. Sir John Pakington, a model M.P., was the legislative father of this precious bantling; may his name live for ever as the man that proposed that Justice Shallow should flog posterity! Mr. Richard Monkton Milnes was distinguished amongst the whip-school of reformers; but the honourable gentleman had a whole crotchet to himself—the
Juvenile Offenders Bill,' which was, however, too much of a good thing, even with its moderate degree of corporal punishment, for the House of Commons to get over in one session.
Mr. Ewart was again unsuccessful in his motion for the Abolition of Death Punishments ; it was rejected in a listless House by 46 to 40. The morality of the question has since been painfully enforced by the double suicide in Newgate. Mr. Page Wood was soon after refused permission to introduce a measure for the relief of those conscientious persons who refuse to take an oath. The Old lights of Parliament think it is better that justice should suffer than for our dear Mother Church to endure one pang from the enlargement of liberty of conscience.
Apropos of Mother Church, she has received some little legislative regard in the past session. The Bishop of London modestly, but unsuccessfully, endeavoured to subvert the royal authority as head of the Church, by the proposal of a new tribunal for heretics. The Ecclesiastical Commission received some attention, and it is to be hoped, for the future, that secretaries will not be permitted to abscond with £7,000 or £8,000 of the public money. Mr. Frewen's Benefices in Plurality Act may perchance restrain too worldly divines from self-seeking ; but the partial character of the act may be determined by the refusal of Mr. Hume's amendment to prohibit all pluralities. The bishops, we are told, are so dreadfully hard worked, that a wit has predicted an early strike in the Right Reverend bench. Mr. Gladstone, possibly apprehensive of that dire calamity, suggested the enrolment of a corps of working or suffragan bishops for all places of 100,000 inhabitants. Lord John Russell has promised to consider the matter during the intervals of grouse-shooting.
Of other questions affecting men in their religious belief, we need only name the refusal of leave to Mr. Anstey to bring in a bill to repeal the penal laws against Roman Catholics ; the rejection of the motion to abolish the Irish ministers' money; and the continued infliction of the Regium Donum. Mr. Peto's Titles of Religious Congregations Bill, and a similar measure affecting Scotland, passed early in the session, and will confer large relief on the parties concerned.
The Viceroyalty (so called, says a joker, from the vices of royalty) of Ireland Abolition Bill was well received, and stands for future enrolment in the statute-book. It has been stigmatized as a centralizing job; but any one who will spare the trouble to distinguish between the essentials and accidentals of principles, will readily perceive the mistake. In truth, the Castle was the central point of Irish jobbery and abuse. The strongest opposition, of course, comes from the Dublin shopkeepers, a moral force not very formidable. The proposal is to give a permissive power to abolish the office, and create a new Secretary of State ; the establishment in the Phænix-park to be kept up for the use of real royalty. Lord John Russell contemplates votes in supply to defray the costs of the royal visits, and to 'endear her Majesty still more to the hearts of her subjects.'
That monstrous specimen of hasty and inconsiderate legislation, the 11 and 12 of Vict. c. 62, entitled, “An Act for promoting the Public Health, is beginning to attract public attention now that the public feel the effects of its despotic provisions. Two acts have been passed this session-hurried with indecent haste-bringing several unfortunate towns under the arbitrary rule of the oligarchy of Gwydr-house. All the centralizing efforts of the Emperor Joseph of Austria, of which we have lately heard so much, were nothing compared with the sweeping inroads on self-government, which this Board are making in England, unheeded by the mass of the people. Some curious facts have been brought to light in reference to these bills. So reckless were the Procrustean framers of this public health scheme, that they not only abrogated the rights of towns, but they have, by a side blow, broken down the law of Parliament itself. It has always been required, prior to legislation on matters of local interest, that the assent of the majority of the people should be signified in the most formal manner. But to bring any town