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lics, and members of the Church of England. But were no Christians excluded on account of religious objections? What was thought of the Quakers, and on what ground was it, that a bill was not brought in for their relief? Was it through fear of alarming the religious feelings of the country? If this bill were passed, other bills must come, and was it wise, year after year, to disturb the country by the introduction of these separate bills, instead of a general admission to granting power? There was no one ground on which the Jews were sought to be relieved, that did not apply with equal, nay

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greater, force to the Quakers. He knew no tenet of the Quakers which incapacitated them. was fair, then, that he should see the whole principle applied at once; and if every class of persons were to be admitted, let the question be at once fairly discussed, and not on separate measures.

To the motion for the second reading of the bill, general Gascoyne had moved as an amendment, that it should be read a second time, that day six months. On the division, the amendment was carried by a majority of 228 over 165, and the bill was lost.

CHAP. V.

Bill for limiting Capital Punishment in cases of Forgery-Discussion regarding the Conduct of the Attorney General in prosecuting the Morning Journal-Bill for amending the Law of Libel, by increasing the Securities to be found by Newspapers, and abolishing the punishment of Transportation in case of a Second OffenceAddresses of both Houses for the Removal of the Judge of the High Court of Admiralty in Ireland, on account of Malversation in Office-Alterations in Courts of Justice-Illness of the King-Bill to authorize the adhibiting of the Sign Manual by a Stamp-Death of the King, and Accession of the Duke of Clarence, as William IV. -Royal Message to Parliament-Rupture between the Ministers and the Whigs-Debate in both Houses on the Question of a Regency -Speech of Mr. Brougham-Prorogation and Dissolution of Parliament.

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N the 1st of April, Mr. Secretary Peel brought in a bill to alter the laws regarding Forgery. Its principal object was, to abrogate partially, at least, the capital punishment which had so long been affixed to almost every branch of this offence; but the Home Secretary was not prepared to go all the lengths to which it had often been urged in parliament that this doctrine should be carried, or to remove the highest sanction which the law knew from every degree of an offence, a single act of which might be productive of most extensive and irremediable ruin. He proposed to remit the capital punishment in all those cases where serious doubts attended its infliction, and where the complainants, by due caution, could have saved themselves: such as forging receipts for money, orders for the delivery of goods, forging stamps, uttering forged

stamps, attempting to defraud by issuing forged orders for goods, the fabrication of the material of Bank of England paper, and forging deeds and bonds. These, he thought, came within his principle of prevention by the exercise of more diligence and caution in the transactions of business. On the other hand, the capital punishment was still retained in all forgeries of the great seal, privy seal, and sign manual; in forgeries of wills, on the public funds, on bank or money notes, or orders for the payment of money; in short, of all documents which represent money, and are negotiable and transferrable for it.

The bill, however, did not meet the views of a strong party in the House, who thought that the punishment of death should not be inflicted in any case of forgery, nor extended, indeed, to any offence short of murder; and sir James

Mackintosh, Mr. Fowell Buxton, and Mr.Brougham, repeated all the thousand-times reiterated arguments, founded on the assumption that the severity of the punishment prevented the injured from prosecuting, and juries from convicting. On the third reading of the bill, sir James Mackintosh moved a clause repealing the punishment of death in all cases of forgery, except that of the forgery of wills,-which he admitted was attended with peculiar circumstances, distinguishing it from all others. It further provided, that any person, against whom a conviction for forgery should pass, should lie in prison, either with or without hard labour, at home, for the space of fourteen years; or if sent abroad to a penal colony, should be transported for any term not exceeding that number of years. He proposed to give, not only the power of inflicting either of these punishments, but also that of accumulating both, whenever the circumstances of the case should be so atrocious as to deserve the greatest severity. He would also vest a power in the Crown, authorizing it to treat all persons convicted of forgery in such a manner as would mark forgery as an offence of a blacker die than any other which was not directed against life, nor attended with violence. To meet the objection, that the importance of employing persons of education in the public service in new and remote colonies, would lead, first to the pardon, and then to the employment in public situations, of persons convicted of forgery, who were generally persons of education, he proposed to take away all power of remitting or relaxing the punishment or forgery, except by a

representation to the king, of the grounds on which it was proposed to remit it, and by a remission of it by the king at home.

Sir James Mackintosh's clause was carried, by a majority of 151 over 138. Mr. Peel, thereupon, relinquished all charge of the bill, hinting, at the same time, that the House would probably regret afterward the decision to which it had now

come. Accordingly, when the bill, in its new form, came to the House of Lords, the lord chancellor declared himself against so sweeping a repeal of the capital punishment, and moved that the bill should be restored to the state in which it had originally been brought into the House of Commons. His views were supported by lord Tenterden, lord Wynford, and lord Eldon; and there could be little doubt but that infinitely greater weight was due to the experience of these high judicial characters, in a matter with which they had been conversant as the business of their lives, than to the abstract speculations of mere theorists, founded

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no satisfactory data. Lord Tenterden said, that, though any law, which would diminish the calls upon him to pronounce a capital sentence would be to himself personally, as to every judge, a most enviable relief, he was bound to state his opinion, that we could not, without great danger, take away the punishment of death in those cases of forgery in which it was proposed by the alterations made in the bill in the other House of Parliament to abolish it. He did not think, from his own experience, that individuals were less willing to prosecute in cases of forgery than in other cases, When it was recol

lected how many thousands, and tens of thousands, might be abstracted from individuals by a deep-laid scheme of forgery, it appeared to him that this crime ought to be visited with the utmost extent of punishment which the law allowed. He had never observed, in the case of prosecutions for this crime, any sacrifice of conscience by prosecutors in consequence of their own private feelings; and he might add, that he never knew juries take any other course than that which their duties prescribed to them. It was equally absurd to suppose, that the judge would step beyond the bounds of his duty in placing the evidence before the jury for their consideration. Why should he give any opinion more favourable than the evidence would warrant, when the judge well knew that it was in his own power, at the proper time, if the circumstances of the case were favourable, to recommend the offender to mercy? Lord Eldon, for nearly twentyfive years, had been placed, as chancellor, in the responsible situation of assisting the king in deciding on cases of life and death, when the Recorder made his periodical reports. The most painful part of his duty, in the execution of that important trust, was that which related to cases of forgery; and he could, most conscientiously, declare, that he never recommended that the law should take its course, except in cases where he was perfectly convinced that such severity was absolutely necessary; and he would, without hesitation, say, that, if their lordships did not agree to the amendment of the lord chancellor, it was his conviction, that they would neither do that which was consistent with

mercy, nor reconcileable with justice. The amendment of the lord chancellor was carried by a majority of seventy-seven to twenty.

When the bill returned to the Commons, those who had supported sir James Mackintosh's amendment, complained that the House had been improperly treated by the lords. The bill, it was said, had been carried up to the lords on the 8th of June; their lordships' amendments had been made on the 1st of July, and yet they were not sent down to the lower House till the 13th, on the very eve of the prorogation, when the Commons had no choice but either to accede to them, or lose the benefit of the bill altogether. It would be better, therefore, to reject the bill entirely. If passed in its present shape, the remaining question would come before parliament, in another session, under great disadvantages; by rejecting it, the subject would be forced on the earliest consideration of the next parliament; and a Home Secretary would scarcely venture in the interim to recommend the execution of a capital sentence, looking at the opinion which the House of Commons had expressed. Mr. Peel declared, that he would give the Crown such advice as he thought the interests of justice required, without reference to what might or might not be the opinion of the majority of the House of Commons. After two divisions,— one on a motion to delay the consideration of the amendments for a fortnight, before which time parliament would have been prorogued,

and another, on a motion to reject them,-they were ultimately agreed to, and the bill passed.

In the beginning of the present volume, we have noticed certain

state prosecutions instituted by the Attorney-general against a London newspaper, for what were considered to be scandalous and seditious libels against the king, the ministers, and the two Houses of Parliament. On the 2nd of March, the merits of these prosecutions, and the conduct of the Attorneygeneral in originating them, and carrying them on, was brought before the House of Commons by sir Charles Wetherell, on a motion for copies of the proceedings in the three ex officio informations against Mr. Alexander, the editor of the Morning Journal, which had lately been tried in the Court of King's Bench. Sir Charles had been requested to undertake the defence of Mr. Alexander professionally he had declined it, from an apprehension that his strong feelings regarding the conduct of government, both in prosecuting, and in the measures that occasioned the writings which were prosecuted, might carry him beyond the line of his duty, as well as from a consideration of the relation in which he had stood to that government. The same reasons would have prevented him from interfering now, whatever his own opinion of the demerits of these prosecutions might be, had he not found, that the universal voice of all parties had denounced them as partial, unjust, and oppressive. The first information was for a libel, which was supposed to charge the lord chancellor with having borrowed money of Mr. Sugden, and of having, by way of return, assisted that gentleman to attain the office of the solicitor-general. Sir Charles thought the chancellor did perfectly right in adopting legal proceedings against such a publication; and accordingly

the Attorney-general had moved for an information, at his lordship's instance. Mr. Alexander put in an affidavit denying that he meant any allusion to the chancellor. The application had been made by the Attorney-general merely as the private counsel of lord Lyndhurst: the defendant had been put to the expense and vexation of meeting that private prosecution, but so soon as his defence was stated, sir James Scarlett abandoned the private prosecution, came forward in his character of Attorney-general, and, in right of his office, filed an ex officio information for the very same libel. The whole history of Westminster Hall, sir Charles asserted, presented no instance of a

proceeding so extraordinary and oppressive. The case of an information for libel having been applied for, and granted, and afterwards abandoned by the Attorneygeneral, to substitute an ex officio information against the same individual, was a case unprecedented in the annals of judicial proceedings. He spoke advisedly when he said every lawyer in Westminster Hall agreed in thus characterizing the proceeding, with but one exception, and that was the man by whom it had been instituted. The consequences had been vexatious and oppressive to the defendant, who had thus been exposed to double trouble and expense. Then the mode of attack was changed, only after the mode of defence had been elicited. The private application drew from Mr. Alexander his intended line of defence; and no sooner had the Attorney-general learned this, than he came forth with his ex officio information, to render that intended defence useless. If the

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