« PreviousContinue »
clearer understanding of the people.” And the committee was empowered “to advise with the judges, and to send for and to employ and call to their assistance therein, any other persons whom they should think fit, for the better effecting thereof; and to prepare the same for the further consideration of the House, and to make report thereof." No such report, however, is extant. In 1651-52, Matthew Hale (afterwards Lord Chief-Justice), Cooper (afterwards Lord Shaftesbury), and Rushworth, with other persons out of the House, were appointed to report upon the inconveniences of the law; and a revised system of the law was reported to the Ilouse in the same year. The work was afterwards transferred to other hands, but was not abandoned ; and, in 1653, a committee was appointed to consider of a new model or body of law. No proceedings of this committee have been discovered.
After the Restoration, namely, in 1666, a committee, consisting of Finch (afterwards Lord Nottingham), Maynard, Atkins, Prynne, and others, was appointed “ to confer with such of the lords, the judges, and other persons of the long robe who have already taken pains and made progress in perusing the statute
and to consider of repealing such former statute laws as they shall find necessary to be repealed; and of expedients for reducing all statute laws of one nature, under such a method and
conduce to the more ready understanding and better execution of such laws.” This attempt was as ineffectual as all
head as may
There now appears to have been a pause for some years, but in 1796 and 1803 reference seems to have been made to the subject in the reports on the Promulgation of the Statutes, and on temporary laws.
In 1806 the Commissioners on Public Records resolved, “That Francis Hargrave, Esquire, should be requested to consider and report to the Board as to the best method of reducing the statute law into a smaller compass and more systematic form, and of revising or amending the same, in the whole or in part; repealing what is obsolete, and consolidating what consists of needless repetition ; specifying the general heads of the statute law most necessary to be dealt with in either way; the best method of rendering the style of our future statutes more correct, concise, and uniform in their forms of expression, and, at the same time, more perspicuous in the arrangement of their enactments and provisions; with a statement of such practical rules as appear to be most effectual for this purpose.” Mr. Hargrave did not make any report on the subject; but the Commissioners of 1833 say that this very learned gentleman is supposed to have made considerable collections towards enabling him to perform the task so “judiciously” intrusted to him. Judging from the result, it might be doubted whether the selection of Mr. Hargrave was so judicious as the Commissioners of 1833 seem to have thought.
In 1816, the Lords and Commons resolved that it was highly expedient that effectual measures should be taken for the arrangement of the statute law under distinct heads; but this again led to no result. Then came the Commissions of 1833 and 1845 for the consolidation of the criminal law, and generally for inquiring into the expediency of consolidating other branches of the statute law; these two commissions absorbed between them about £50,000 of the public money, but did little else.
In the beginning of the year 1853, Lord Chancellor Cranworth announced in the House of Lords that the consolidation of the statutes was forth with to be proceeded with under his own immediate superintendence. Royal and Parliamentary statute commissions and committees had failed ; the Lord Chancellor would now try what a working statute board, nominated by himself, could do. Accordingly, he obtained the services of Mr. Bellenden Ker as head of the board, at a comfortable salary of £1000, and of four other gentlemen as assistants, at salaries of £600 each. The board was but an experimental one; its labours were confined to so much as could be done in one year, and the several appointments were expressly limited to that period. The scheme, however, never had the confidence of the profession nor of the public, and it turned out, as it was evident to all but the chancellor and the chief commissioner it must turn out, a signal failure,
Lord Cranworth's experimental board was thereupon superseded by the present, or, as we hope we must now call it, the late Statute Law Commission. This commission was issued on the 22nd August, 1854, for two purposes ; first, for consolidating the statute laws of the realm, or such parts of them as the commissioners might find capable of being usefully and conveniently consolidated, combining with that process, if thought advisable, the incorporation of any parts of the common law; and secondly, for suggesting rules to ensure simplicity and uniformity in future statutes.
The commissioners appointed were, the Lord Chancellor, Lords Lyndhurst, Brougham, and Wrottesley; the chiefs of the Queen's Bench, Common Pleas, and Exchequer; Baron Parke, ViceChancellor Page Wood, Mr. Walpole, Mr. Napier; the lawofficers of the crown for England, Scotland, and Ireland; and Mr. Bellenden Ker as paid commissioner. To these were added, by a second commission, dated the 15th of December in the same fear, Mr. Coulson, the standing couusel to the Home Office; and by a third commission, dated the 6th February 1856, Mr. Baines, Mr. J. D. Fitzgerald (then solicitor-general for Ireland), Mr. Maitland (then solicitor-general for Scotland), and Sir Fitzroy Kelly. Lord Stanley, Mr. Greaves, Mr. Stuart Wortley, Sir H. S. Keating, and Lord John Russell, also joined the Board at various times.
Here, then, was a goodly array of commissioners, from whose labours much might be expected; but, unfortunately, it is one thing to name commissioners, and another to persuade them to meet and work. The board met for the first time on the 13th November, 1854, and from that day up to the 9th December, 1857, both inclusive, there were altogether but forty-eight meetings. The minutes of the proceedings of the commissioners during these forty-eight meetings are published, but we believe that the subsequent minutes are not; at any rate, the period between the first and forty-eighth meetings may fairly be taken as the working period of the board. From six to seven members, on an average, attended each meeting; and the following table,
which we have compiled from the published minutes, will show the number of times each member of the commission attended, the board from the time of his joining it :
NUMBER OF MEETINGS ATTENDED
both inclusive. both inclusive. both inclusive. Commissioners appointed 230 Aug. 1854. Out of 3.
Out of 11.
Out of 31.
3 Lord Brougham
3 Sir R. Bethell
6 Mr. Brewster
Lord Stanley and Mr. Greaves took their seats at the board for the first time on the 4th of June, 1856; the former attended ten, and the latter twenty-one, out of twenty-four of its meetings. Mr. Stuart Wortley, Sir H. S. Keating, and Lord J. Russell, who severally joined the board still later, had no opportunity of displaying their diligence.
From these particulars it is clear that the board comprised but few really working members, and Lord Cranworth, it must be
said, anticipated that this would be the case ; for, in a paper which his lordship caused to be distributed among the commissioners before their first meeting, it was suggested for consideration whether it would not be expedient.to name a permanent committee of members, whose attendance, it was probable, could be obtained, and who should carry out, in detail, the resolutions of the general board.
The board, however, adopted a somewhat different course. The members divided into a number of sub-committees, each of which undertook to superintend the consolidation of a particular branch of statute law. For instance, Chief Justice Jervis and Baron Parke (with whom Sir Fitzroy Kelly and Mr. Greaves were suhsequently joined) agreed to take the criminal law; Vice-Chancellor Wood, Mr. Walpole, and Mr. Ker, agreed to take real property; Lord Campbell and the Lord Chief Baron agreed to superintend a consolidated bill on the law of misters and workmen ; Sir A. E. Cockburn, in the first instance, and afterwards Sir R. Bethell, took the subject of insurance, and so on. This arrangement, excellent as it may seem, did not work well. We cannot suppose that the members of the sub-committees were incompetent to perform the tasks which they agreed to undertake, but we suspect that they did not apply themselves very vigorously to them. Indeed, we find that just one year after the Lord Chief Justice and the Lord Chief Baron had undertaken the superintendence of a masters and servants' bill (which it appears had been prepared), the secretary to the board was directed to inquire of their lordships whether they had been able to examine it, and if not, whether they would wish to do so, or would prefer that it should be taken up by some other members of the board. The answer of their lordships is not on the minutes, but nothing more is heard of the bill ; and, with the exception of the subcommittees on criminal law and real property law-which appear to have done something—the sub-committees, as a general rule,
Moreover, neither the board nor the sub-committees ever came to a definite conclusion as to the meaning of “consolidation," or
VOL, VII. NO. XIII.