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Events of the Quarter.
THE LATE JUDICIAL APPOINTMENT IN THE QUEEN'S
BENCH. It would be affectation in us not to advert to the recent appointment of Mr. Blackburn to the Bench. That which has been a common topic in the whole profession-which has startled the public and been commented on by the press, openly and in distinct language—is not a subject from the discussion of which we shall shrink.
It is true, as has been stated, that among the members of the Bar Mr. Blackburn was comparatively but little known-to the public, not at all—to Lord Campbell, as he has in the House of Peers asserted (if he be correctly reported), only as a learned counsel to whose arguments he has occasionally listened, he does not say how often, with pleasure. Mr. Blackburn, however, has been known since 1853, conjoined with Mr. Ellis, as a reporter in the Queen's Bench. not making any improper professional reflection upon Mr. Blackburn, when we say his practice was of a very limited character, although he has been now for twenty years called to the bar. He attended at the Liverpool sessions, and the local civil court at that city, but took no leading part there. At the assizes he appeared annually in a few cases in the same city. At the same time, he was undoubtedly known by those with whom he was brought into connection, as an industrious man, a diligent and sound lawyer, whose learning and abilities, from various causes, had too little scope in the profession to be fairly tested in a practical form. Apart from any skill as a Nisi Prius advocate (which he never had sufficient opportunity of maturing), he was such a man, that if attorneys had the means or ability of selecting the best men for their work, instead of being compelled by interest, or attracted by notoriety to the comparatively few who are overworked, they would have been found consulting Mr. Blackburn, and employing his talents for their clients' causes, more that in fact was the case. Far be it from us to allege that, as a rule, the best men have the most clients. We should as soon lay down the rule, that the most honourable and intelligent merchants were the richest, or the most virtuous and estimable woman had the most numerous body of suitors. Nevertheless, we do commonly find a certain measure of success attending marked capacity, and a certain degree of credit attached to proved ability, and the habits whieh this success brings with it, is, especially in the practice of the law, an important preparation for any commanding position to which it may ultimately lead. Of two men, equal in talent and learning, the one who adds to his other acquirements large practice, and thus demonstrates his power to apply his
knowledge usefully, is undoubtedly to be preferred to perform the high functions of his profession, such as belong to the judicial office. Nor can it be for one moment said, that there were not, in respect of reputed learning, men at least equal to Mr. Blackburn, and of longer standing, and of whose practised powers both branches of the profession were better assured. A Lord Chancellor, like any trustee, is bound to be able to justify an appointment of this character, not by his hopes, but by the knowledge of fitness, which he in common with the profession possesses of the person promoted. The principle is altogether vicious which admits of a chancellor acting on his own private impressions, and being indifferent as to public opinion, on such a matter as this. If this non-responsibility be a'lmitted the door is at once opened to favouritism, nepotism, and that offensive use of patronage from which hitherto judicial appointments have been free. Any thing approaching a job in these appointments, is indeed a crime of the gravest character; none the less heinous, because no especial penalty is attached to it, or because in the hurried course of events, it seems soun to pass into oblivion, or because there is no recognised power of compelling retractation. When Lord Chelmsford made an appointment (which, in the opinion of many, was at least as appropriate as that he was subsequently obliged to substitute for it), the rancorous attacks of his political opponents, and the greediness and disappointment of his own party, were brought to bear upon his kindly nature, and he yielded his own judgment we will not now inquire whether rightly or no--to what he supposed to be a general expression of opinion. Lord Campbell was more (or shall we say less) fortunate.
He thrusts an almost unknown man into one of the highest judicial offices, and though throughout English society the act has excited dismay and disgust, and throughout Scotch society has raised astonishment, while it has induced prudent silence—there is no possibility of appeal, or this appointment assuredly, like the former, would hardly have been confirmed.
Shall we therefore, out of delicacy to the new judge, hesitate to tell Lord Campbell in print, what, with one exception, we have heard spoken both in and out of the profession? Shall we refuse here to record that such an appointment (and it was Lord Campbell's first) is a disgrace to the Lord Chancellor of England; and this whether or no Mr. C. Blackburn turn out eventually an average good judge ?
But it will be said, “ Read the testimony of certain noble peers in the House of Lords.” Exactly so. And we would observe this is the only occasion that we know of when a Lord Chancellor has been obliged to explain and defend an appointment of the kind in the House. May it be the last! The discussion in question, however, cannot be considered very satisfactory to Lord Campbell, though certain law lords do think it amiable to apply the whitewash in redundance. Lord Lyndhurst remarked, “It is of great importance that the public should not entertain any doubt or jealousy with respect to appointments to the judicial bench.” The noble lord, indeed, who admitted that every one was asking, “Who is Mr. Blackburn ?” volur
teered the statement that he “was an admirable arguer of a law case.”
“Thou hast it now, King, Cawdor, Glamis, all,
Thou play dst most foully for't.” How the noble speaker must have chuckled at the close approach of the compliment to an unpleasant reflection.
But Lord Campbell, thus called on to explain the appointment,
“I know nothing of Mr. Blackburn except what I know from baving seen him practise in the court over which I presided. I have no private intimacy, and I declare on my word of honour I don't know of what side he is in politics.” It is not alleged that the appointment was made on the ground of politics. Lord Campbell's “ word of honour” is here, therefore, quite unnecessarily pledged. But we miss this
, solemn asseveration in his disavowal of“ private intimacy;" we must presume, however, that he meant to declare with equal force that he was not privately acquainted with Mr. Blackburn : neither hospitably entertaining him, for example, on divers occasions, or in other ways giving him the privilege of his countenance and conversation.
It is idle, we may observe, to compare the appointment of such a stuff gownsman as Mr. Blackburn with that of Mr. Justice Crompton or Mr. Justice Willes, both of whom had practice and experience on a large scale for a long period, and the highest renown in the profession for many years.
CONSOLIDATION OF THE LAW, THE LATE (?) STATUTE LAW ComMISSION. — The practice of the legislature with regard to the consolidation of the statute law would be ludicrous if it were not melancholy. We have just now too many political pretenders appearing before the public in this matter. There is too much futile, because misdirected labour exhibited ; too many uncongenial, disunited, and, we may add, incapable minds, busy in begetting cripples, delivering abortions, or boldly pledging themselves to produce, on a future occasion, vigorous and healthy offspring, which, however, never see the light. In respect to those who delight in such promises, we would observe that they being themselves neither able nor willing to execute their engagements, the only chance left to them is to endeavour to effect their purpose by deputy. But no one will give credit to unknown and irresponsible delegates. Then what is the result? Nothing but illusion and distrust-waste of labour, and eventually despair.
The facts connected with the doings of the Statute Law Commission were fully considered in our last number, (Art. IX.) Since then, a return to an order of the House of Commons of February last has been made, from which it appears that the sum of £20,000 sterling has been expended by Lord Cranworth's experimental Board and the Commission, and further, that the Commissiou met twice in 1858, and once in the course of the current year. The return occupies fifty-two blue-book pages—the greater portion of the contents of which, viz., forty-four pages, had already appeared in their prior return of 1857. This is a remarkable but not singular instance of absurd and disgraceful waste of public money. It is true that, without this repetition of forty-four pages, the miserable exhibition of the lethargy and impotence of the commission would have been rendered too palpable, even to the eyes of its few and hardy supporters.
A fourth report of the commission was published in June last. We need hardly say it is utterly valueless. It, however, notices that the classification of the public general statutes has been completed from the 41 Geo. III., U. K., down to 21 & 22 Vict. It has been printed, and occupies two heavy folio volumes, copies of which have been duly distributed among the members of the U per House, who, of course, during the ensuing recess will examine them closely.
Probably the gentlemen who undertook the duty of compiling the register, have performed it efficiently, especially as their salaries in respect of the work in question amount to £2000. We should certainly have volunteered an opinion, that this costly register was of no advantage had not the report assured us, that, from the lack of such a work, the Court of Queen's Bench had fallen into an error of considering minutely the language of a statute which had been repealed fourteen years before, and that the legislature itself had, on one occasion, repealed statutes which had been already repealed. These notable facts Lord Cranworth also mentioned to the House in debate, on the 18th July; but the Lord Chancellor nevertheless explained, that unless this register was carried back to Magna Carta, the labour would be in vain. We may also mention that the mode adopted by the compilers, of registering statutes as repealed “in part,” without pointing out what part, will by no means lighten the labour of future consolidation. Moreover, their remarks are occasionally delivered with so much hesitating modesty, that they afford no certain information.-(Vide, e.g., the printed specimen annexed to Third Report, p. 13, cap. 23.)
The Fourth Report further states, that the “register may be used as the foundation for a new edition of the statutes passed since the union, the advantages of which to the public would be considerable, even if no consolidation were effected;" but the commissioners coolly add, that the register in an important point is imperfect as a foundation for such a purpose ; for enactments repealed by implication are not placed within the category of repealed statutes ; and “it would be necessary, therefore, to employ an editor competent to the task of revising the statutes with reference to these questions !” For what purpose then, we may ask, has Mr. Bellenden Ker received his £1000 per
annum these many years—
or why is he now deprived of his salary, when a "competent” editor is still required ?
Curiously enough we read at the close of the report, that the ninety consolidation bills prepared under the direction of the Commission, require further consideration; and it is modestly proposed that a lawyer, one of “eminence,” “ should be selected by her Majesty, who should devote his whole time and attention to superintending the work ” of revision.
We regret to see such names as those of Stanley, Lyndhurst, Brougham, Wensleydale, and Coulson, good naturedly (but we think erroneously) allowe i to be appended to such a report. Others, such as the present Lord Chancellor, the Lord Chief Justice of England, the Lord Advocate, Mr. Walpole, and Mr. Napier, have withheld their anthority from the document in question.
On the occasion of Lord Cranworth making a laudatory speech when he introduced five bills (for the especial purpose of their not passing, although they originated with this precious Statute Law Commission), he entered upon some of the discussions connected with the subject, which are, alas! but too familiar to our readers, and to all law reformers. He elicited, however, from the chancellor one piece of valuable information; viz., that the Commission was at last considered by the government inefficient enough to be doomed to immediate destruction. It had indeed been previously mentioned that Mr. Bellenden Ker's salary was already stopped (the date, however, being uncertain), and there were not wanting those whose shrewdnesstaking the form of uncharitableness-led them to infer thereupon, that the life of the Commission itself would not be much further prolonged. It will always, however, be a melancholy satisfaction to those interested either pecuniarily or otherwise in the fate—we do not say success—of the Commission, to recollect the graceful compliments and amiable sympathy which followed its last days. Prejudice and ignorance, we have been told, had induced some to doubt Mr. Ker's merits as a commissioner. Like qualities doubtless, with an addition of malice, have prompted men to deny that the Commission, in its various phases, has wrought any thing of practical advantage ; though it has filled the place which others might have usefully occupied, and blocked up the avenues, and broken about and thrown doubt on the roads which others might have trodden, and who might have had some chance of reaching the goal. Whatever wounds may have been inflicted on the feelings of the commissioners through blindness and spite, have been amply compensated for by the handsome manner in which the commissioners have been spoken of in the House of Lords, where the habit of compliment and adulation, in cases where it were better to avoid them, is just now much indulged in.
- The commissioners have done everything they could do.” Granted-But this turns out to be nothing. "Are ninety bills, then, nothing ?” Yes!
. for they are bills which no one trusts; and no one dare ask the House to pass them. Is it not obvious that, if the work so ostentatiously pointed at be of any credit, the abolition of the Commission at its