« PreviousContinue »
The powers given to the judges by the Corrupt Practices at Elections Act, I868, opened a new field in which Mr. Justice Keogh’s acuteness and experience of men shone to great advantage. The general election which followed in I868, provided a large amount of work, and it is remarkable that in contrast with the attacks to which his conduct of the Fenian trials had been exposed, and with the uproar which followed on the Galway judgment in I872, his large share in the Election trials of I869 excited general admiration, marked as it was by impartiality, intelligence, and expedition. In 1872, Sir William Gregory vacated his seat for Galway on assuming the Government of Ceylon, and the present member for Galway, Major Nolan, offered himself as a candidate in the double capacity of a Home Ruler and the chosen of the Roman Catholic clergy. The public exercise of clerical influence was nothing new in Irish elections. In many constituencies it has been the practice for years past to announce a candidate by a declaration emanating from a meeting of the clergy at the Bishop’s house. In Galway, however, there was this element of difference, a large number of the resident gentry were Roman Catholic, and they had hitherto had much to say in settling the representation of the county; moreover, they were on this occasion very much divided, many of them supporting Major Trench, a Protestant, but personally popular. It was only by introducing the new plan of popular nomination by the mouths of the clergy, such as had been already recognised in Longford and other counties of Leinster, and enforcing the nomination with the utmost vigour, that Major Nolan’s election could be secured, and accordingly from one end of Galway to the other the whole resources of priestly organisation were brought into play. Mob violence and spiritual terrors were used alternately, as occasion might require, with the utmost freedom. Bishops’ Pastorals and altar denunciations were almost as numerous as the paving stones that pursued Major Trench’s supporters. Major Trench relied on the facts to show that there was a general conspiracy to interfere with freedom of election, issued notices that his opponent had disqualified himself, and claimed that the votes given to him, the only qualified candidate, entitled him to the seat. There was no question that the proceedings of Major Nolan’s supporters had invalidated his election. They were quite prepared for a renewal of the struggle, but such a system of persistence in lawlessness was anticipated by the provisions enabling the other candidate to disqualify his opponent in virtue of such practices, and claim the seat for himself as won at the particular election by the votes recorded for the only qualified candidate. After a long inquiry in Galway, Mr. justice Keogh held that the notices were duly given, that accordingly the votes for Major Nolan could not be counted, and reserved for the Court of Common Pleas the question whether the seat did not belong to Major Trench. The decision of the Court in favour of Major Trench was, however, but a small matter compared with the fury which the judge's picture of the clergy in Galway, and his comments on their proceedings, excited. Two Bishops and several members of the inferior orders were put on their trial, and the Roman Catholic power, which had seemed to enjoy almost universal dominion over the Irish constituencies out of Ulster since the General Election of 1866, appeared seriously threatened. The motion in the House of Commons for the removal of the judge and the violent invectives with which the proposal was supported were, however, only the latest development of that quarrel between him and the priestly power which had been going
on for years. \Ve do not attach much importance to the theory that the strong nature of the judge was
seriously affected by the uproar which his impetuous rhetoric excited. His was rather a spirit that exulted in the storm, but however that may be, there had been for some
time past many signs of failing health, and on these there supervened a few weeks since a mental affection, which was soon followed by complete physical exhaustion, and his active stirring life was terminated last month at Bingen, on the Rhine.
In the Galway judgment, and some similar utterances, Mr. justice Keogh was too often carried away by the earnestness of his own convictions, and spoke rather with the passion of a partisan than with the calmness which befits the judgment seat. But whether we differ from him or not, whether we approve his language, or would have preferred somewhat different phraseology, it is impossible not to recognise in him agenerous, glowing nature, which was actuated by a high sense of all that is strong and frank and noble, and which hated cordially every form of pettiness and falsehood.
VI.—ON THE AMENDMENT OF THE LAVV.
BY A. E. MILLER, LL.D., Q.C.,* one or rm-: RAILWAY COMMISSIONERS.
WHEN I originally accepted the offer made me by the
kindness of the Council of this Association, and undertook the office of President of the jurisprudence Department for the ensuing year, I purposed calling attention in some detail to the principles upon which, as it seems to me, the work of law reform should be conducted, and the machinery by which it should be carried out. I have, however, found myself compelled completely to alter my design, partly because the scheme, as it were, broke down under its own weight—the time at my disposal turned out lamentably insufficient for the purp0se—but even more, because I found that the ground had been in great part already covered better than I could hope to do it, and notably by my immediate predecessors in this chair.
' An Address delivered as President of the jurisprudence Department, Social Science Congress, Cheltenham, October 28, I878.
Under these circumstancesl thought that I could not occupy myself more usefully than by endeavouring to call attention as briefly as I can to a few of the questions which seem to me at present to call most urgently for reform. On one question indeed I shall be obliged to tax your patience at some length, not only because I consider it the most crying evil left unredressed in this country, but because I think the present time, when public attention has been so lately called to a flagrant instance of the abuse, a fitting one for making an exertion to procure its removal.
It will doubtless be expected that, at the outset of this address,I should make some allusion to the question of Codification which has not only for many years occupied a considerable share of public attention, but has also been specially commended to the consideration of this Congress.
As regards the particular Bill now before us I desire to say nothing; but on the general question of Codification I must ask you to bear with me for a few moments, though I am conscious that what I have to say will be anything but palatable to many.
I am convinced that the time has not yet come for anything like a successful attempt at a general codification of the Law; nay more, I doubt if it can ever come ; nay more still, I have grave doubts whether if it had come, the end would be a desirable one.
Let me not be misunderstood. I have no greater love than any one else for the present chaotic condition of the Law; no one could hail with greater pleasure than myself an authoritative Digest, which would replace by some twenty or thirty well arranged volumes the 2,000 odd volumes of statutes and reports, which every competent lawyer is supposed, if not to know by heart, at any rate to be able to find his way readily about in. The man who will undertake and carry out that will do a great work. But we are yet many steps from the beginning of that work, and when it is completed we shall even then not have progressed beyond the very threshold of a Code.
A Code, let me remind you, if it is to fulfil its office efiiciently, must be a complete systematic enunciation of the law; so complete that no principle or proposition of law can exist for any practical purpose which is not to be found in it; so systematic that every thing that is there can be found with little more trouble than is involved in looking out a word in a good dictionary. Every question of la\v would thus be reduced to one of construction merely, and the best grammarian would, for all practical purposes, become the most competent judge. Now, without entering into any question as to the desirability of such a result, it is clear that, as a preliminary to its attainment, we must ascertain with precision the whole of the Law which we desire to enunciate, down to its minutest details, and must have an adequate idea of the mutual relations of its several parts. How are you to do this until you have first got hold of the existing Law in some manageable shape, and then determined precisely the mould in which you desire to recast it? Now this preliminary involves the preparation of a Digest. I know that it has been gravely urged that the process of Digestion and Codification can proceed simultaneously, that the codifier, that is to say, can make his own Digest and use it up in his Code as he goes along; and I will not deny that, on a small scale, and with reference to a limited subject, this may be practicable, but I am certain that, if you intend to do the thing so as to be of real permanent service, you must be satisfied to do one thing at a time,