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to enact, that the Court of Chancery should appoint a dozen official receivers, and to insist that in every case parties should employ one of them, though they were satisfied that the duties to be discharged could be more efficiently performed by a person appointed by themselves. There is too great a tendency in modern legislation to appoint functionaries to do every thing for every body. Various objections to the above proposed alteration of the law have been propounded, amongst which we would notice those by Mr. Lawrance, who thus speaks on the subject of official assignees :
I consider the retention of these officers indispensable. There was no provision of Lord Brougham's Bankrupt Law Amendment Act, 1831, which was so loudly called for by the then existing state of circumstances, or which has worked so well, as that by which official assignees were appointed. It would be in the highest degree dangerous, by displacing those functionaries, to re-enact all the monstrous iniquities of the system which preceded their appointment. The appointment of creditors' assignee was in those days canvassed for with peculiar avidity, involving as it did the absolute control of the funds, and an indefinite postponement of a dividend.
The early returns made by official assignees show the enormous sums which the creditors' assignees retained, sometimes from cupidity, and sometimes from carelessness as to their appropriation, but in every case the creditors suffered severely from the non-distribution of the funds. 1
The following passage, in the report of the commissioners of 1853, is very significant upon the point we are now considering. “But when,” say the commissioners, “we bear in mind that large defalcations have occurred, and that the checks imposed have been inadequate to prevent them, we think that other and further regulations may be advantageously adopted, partly by extending the existing rules, partly by giving an additional control over the official assignee's receipts, and partly by ensuring a more vigilant application of the tests prescribed.”
The commissioners then advise the adoption of a series of rules for ensuring the safety of the funds in the official assignee's hands, and a more speedy administration of the estate, recommending, amongst other things, that it be the duty of the creditors' assignee in all cases to examine the official assignee's accounts with his books and the bankrupt's balance sheet, and certify his examination and approval, or objections, to the Court.
1 Since the above letter was written, the writer has published his reasons in detail, for retaining the official assignees in all cases, (Vide Solicitors' Journal, p. 391.)
It would almost appear from this, that, in the opinion of the commissioners, the official assignee can only be safely employed under the careful supervision of the creditors' assignee, which we think is any thing but a good reason for rendering the employment of the former compulsory. We must admit that a portion of the commissioners' report bears in favour of the maintenance of the office question ; but we must also recollect that the report was founded upon the evidence of witnesses resident in London, and on answers to questions received exclusively (with the exception of the Bradford Chamber of Commerce) from parties in towns, in which the district courts hold sittings, and by whom the inconvenience of the present system is least felt.
Those who advocate the abolition of the office of official assignees, urge that the court need not possess less control over the funds in the bands of a trade assignee than if they were in the possession of an official assignee ; and that it is not likely that the individual profit of a paid trade assignee, will induce the creditors to take any course but that which is for their own greatest advantage. We do not, indeed, expect that the official assignee's services will be continued where the proceedings are removed to a county court at a distance, as they cannot conveniently act in such cases; but it will be their own fault if they are not chosen in nearly all other cases, as the interim management of the estate will give them an advantage over all other candidates.
If the present system of official assignees be changed, as proposed, the existing officers should be paid a liberal salary for the duties which they will personally be required to discharge in taking charge of the estate between the adjudication and first meeting, and such expenses as they may incur in obtaining assistance. If they are well qualified to act as creditors' assignees, they may rely upon being employed in the great majority of cases for which they will be entitled to be paid; and from these two sources we have no doubt they will obtain an average income equal to the amount of their fees at present.
Mr. Lawrance, in the paper we have alluded to, has ably stated all the objections which can be urged against the proposed alteration of the law, but without inducing us to agree with him, or leading us to the conclusion that the provisions of the two bills do not place the subject upon a proper footing ; viz., that of allowing the creditors to elect an assignee of their own choosing at the first meeting, if they think that course more advantageous to their interests, than continuing the services of the official assignee.
Time has been now given by the dissolution for the consideration of the points raised on the reform of the bankruptcy laws. We trust it will be wisely employed to repel the combination of those interested in maintaining the proved abuses of the present system, and to insist on that course being followed by the legislature which is demanded by the declared wants of the commercial public.
ART. XIII.-LORD MURRAY.
irreparable loss in the decease of this distinguished person. The Scottish Bench has been deprived of a most able, upright, and indefatigable judge; and the last of the celebrated body of contemporaries is gone which made Edinburgh famous in literature as well as in law. Of these the last whom we had occasion to lament was Lord Moncreiff, one of the greatest judges who ever appeared in any part of the island, and one who, before his elevation to the Bench, held a high rank in the Liberal partythe steady and consistent friend of civil and religious liberty, and the enlightened, because the temperate, supporter of all improvements in our jurisprudence. He had never, like Lord
Jeffrey and Lord Murray, held parliamentary office; but before he quitted the bar he was the most useful counsellor of the party which devoted itself to the amendment of our law and our judicatures. In one respect his relation to political affairs differed from that of Lord Murray, who adopted, from conscientious convictions, principles adverse to those of his family; while Lord Moncreiff had an hereditary right to his long and close connection with the Whig party, of which his venerable father was a distinguished ornament.
Lord Murray was the second son of Lord Henderland, nearly related to the Stormont family—a learned and able judge, who had also been one of the Crown lawyers in the Dundas administration, and he was nephew by marriage of Sir Ilay Campbell, the last President of the Court of Session, before its division into two branches. His mother was a niece of the great Lord Mansfield, by whose advice he was sent to Westminster School for some part of his education. He did not, however, like his brother, proceed to Oxford, but returned to Edinburgh, where he finished his studies, and formed those intimacies which continued for life with the most remarkable men of the place, and with others who resorted thither for the inestimable advantage of studying under such teachers as Playfair and Stewart. Of these the chief were the late Lord Kinnaird and the present Lord Lansdowne, one of his oldest and most valued friends. They met, for the last time, during a visit which the latter paid to Scotland in the month of September last.
The son of Lord Henderland and the nephew of President Campbell was secure, not only of professional success, but of the regular promotion which capacity and acquirements far inferior to his could command in those days for any one disposed to range himself under the dominant powers. But he at once showed that he would take a course independent of all party, and in this he steadily persevered. The natural, almost inevitable, effect of one class being banded together by the ties of office, with exclusive principles and party discipline, is to create an opposite combination among their adversaries, with similarly exclusive views. Now, although Lord Murray belonged through life to the Liberal party-the Whigs, as they were in those days termed-yet he never, whether in office or as a private individual, would submit to the discipline which raises prejudices and even personal feelings into the rank of principles, and is often exceedingly hurtful to the cause intended to be served. Hence arose the profound respect entertained for his opinion, even at times when party violence was at its height, and the deference to his wishes when more factious views were generally prevalent. His great influence, both in political and in literary affairs, arose not only from the confidence in his sound judgment and extensive information, but from the knowledge which all had of his generous nature, his high sense of honour, his undeviating and scrupulous integrity. We have said literary as well as political affairs; and with reference, certainly, to the celebrated Review which he joined in forming, he contributed most valuable papers to it, and was consulted by his colleagues respecting its management, with an unvarying confidence in the soundness as well as the honesty of his advice. A remarkable instance of his sagacity and excellent judgment--of his being what the French term de bon conseil—was afforded in 1812, when (as Lord Grenville and Mr. Ellis-afterwards Lord Seaford-accompanied their friend Mr. Canning to the Liverpool election) Mr. Murray accompanied Mr. Brougham. He had daily intercourse with these distinguished adversaries, and it was their constant remark that his judgment during the whole progress of the contest never was at fault. In all probability they also assumed that he would have advised the compromise which they had so much at heart, and by which each party would have returned one member.
There was nothing more striking in his character than the entire absence of all selfishness-the uniform putting his personal claims out of the question when they would interfere with those of others, and his preferring of the public interests or those of his party to his own. When the Whig government was formed in 1830 he at once waived his claims to office, and only succeeded to the place of Lord Advocate upon Lord Jeffrey's