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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 Commission 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 Uj 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, e. pecially 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the Court of Queen's Bench had fallen into an error of considering minutely the language of a statute which had been repealed fourteen years before, and that the legislature itself had, on one occasion, repealed statutes which had been already repealed.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 We may also mention that the mode adopted by the compilers, of registering statutes as repealed " in part," without pointing out what part, will by no means lighten the labour of future consolidation.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 pier
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) allowed 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
culminating point of service is an extravagant blunder | It is clear that either the Commission has been ungratefully handled and maligned, or the public infamously plundered, and its interests cruelly abused.
What is thought of the matter by the present Attorney-General (who seems to be the only man of the present day capable of carrying out any great measure of reform), may be perhaps gathered from a remark made by him in the House on 30th June last, which was to the effect that " we had had for several years a Statute Law Commission, but with the exception of some bills laid upon the table, upon the day before the dissolution of the last parliament, by the late Attorney-General, that Commission had not produced a single measure.' These remarks of the Attorney-General were elicited upon the introduction by Mr. Whiteside of twelve bills to consolidate and amend the Criminal Statute Law of England and Ireland. We need hardly inform our readers that these twelve bills did not reach a maturity riper than that attained by the seven bills of Sir Fitzroy Kelly, to which the Attorney-General alluded as above.
Mr. Whiteside could not have expected, and Sir Fitzroy Kelly never intended, to carry their respective projects further than the stage at which they naturally stopped. It appears to be a habit into which those who would acquire at a cheap rate the reputation of law reformers fall, to parade ostentatiously bills which not only could not be adopted by the legislature, but which would not even bear its investigation. No one, however, does give the slightest credit to the ambitious gentlemen who pursue this course.
These measures," moreover, are never of such value as to be taken up by any one subsequently. They are simply a grave mockery.
On Mr. Whiteside's acting as undertaker to these bills of his, when he moved their second reading he made a speech. We only refer to it because the Attorney-General, in noticing it, took occasion to say that the present government would, in the next session of parliament, undertake the consolidation of the statute law, and that the criminal law would be that part first introduced to parliament. It is granted that the House of Parliament cannot examine the provisions of a consolidation bill. Parliament is not the proper machine for this purpose. The legislature must give its sanction to any comprehensive measure on the credit and faith of those to whose care it is committed. The Statute Law Commission has not earned, nor does it possess such credit. The Attorney-General has pointed out frequently what is the only course now open to us, that of establishing a “ DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE,” which should comprise men,' whose sole duty should be to enter upon and carry out the necessary measures, “who should be responsible," who should perform their duties after a different manner to the Statute Law Cmmission,” “and upon whose credit and faith all measures of consolidation should be introduced to parliament.” -(Times, Par. Rep., July 1st.) Though this is the real step which
1 “The state of things is this, that we must either forego consolidation altogether, or leave it implicitly in the hands of a few learned and able men in whom we have confidence.”—(Lord Brougham, Times, Par. Rep., July 19.) VOL. VII., NO. XIV,
ought to be taken, yet adverse influences seem still to stand in the way of the Attorney-General, who is driven to undertake, in the way he has mentioned, that which we do not think is rightly thrown upon the law-officers of the crown, and of the success of which, we regret to say, we are still not sanguine.
The country has been too long trifled with in this matter, and its interests made subservient to those of private individuals whose incapacity is now confessed.
Under Sir R. Bethell's auspices, we will still hope that new light will be thrown on the darkness in which his predecessors have been groping.
FUTURE LAW REFORMS.—The session now concluding—thanks to the patriotism of the late government in dissolving parliament at the most important crisis of the country's affairs--has been too short to accomplish any of the multitude of the reforms now pending either in promise or threat. The programme for the future session may probably be made out from sundry fair promises of the Lord Chancellor-(House of Lords, July 18th)—from which we gather the subjects of legislation will include bankruptcy, the transfer of real property-equity courts reform, in regard to the vicious mode of taking and “cooking” evidence now in vogue in Chancery—and the assimilation of the practice of courts of law and equity.
The Attorney-General, previously, in a more expanded form, and in answer to a question by Mr. Scully, stated as to the proposed reform of the law touching titles to land, that “the report of the Registration Commission was under the consideration of the Government, together with the very valuable schemes brought in by the late Solicitor-General. A measure would shortly be prepared and submitted to Parliament; but it was impossible at present to state the details, except that its object would be to give effect to the proposition for a registration of titles, and to carry into effect the commissioners' recommendations.” 1
Be it however remarked, that the “valuable schemes brought in by the late Solicitor-General,” were completely at variance with "the Commissioners' recommendations.” The considering of the "scheme' and of the “recommendations," must be therefore carried out in compliment to Sir Hugh M. Cairns, or for the purpose of profiting by the contrast thereby presented.
The Committee of the Four Inns of Court, appointed to consider the whole subject of legal education, have made their report, which will be found in a previous page. The benchers of all the respective inns have not as yet given in their adherence to the report. We trust, however, in a future number to be able to inform the profession that the principles and suggestions of this report have been accepted
1 See L. M. & R. (for May) No. 13, p. 187.
by each of the inns, and that ere long rules will be drawn up in accordance therewith. The profession and the public are under great obligation to the committee, and it is hardly to be anticipated that any bench will hold out longer against the well-considered proposals wbich have been made, and the general feeling in the profession in favour of them.
THE RECENT ELECTION OF THE JUDGE OF THE LONDON SHERIFF'S COURT.—Some sixteen barristers were found who condescended to become candidates for the office. Some of them, doubtless, repudiated the idea of degrading themselves and the office by canvassing, and adopting the demeanour and trickery which are usual on a popular electionand so they lost their election. We must do the electors the justice to say, that they saw the propriety (not to say the necessity) of purifying in some measure the list of candidates, by adopting a certain resolution which, according to a successful electioneering device, was carried immediately prior to the show of hands. The resolution was as follows: -“ That no person be eligible to be a candidate for the office of judge of the Sheriff's Court who has ever been convicted of fraud, or who has compounded with his creditors, or been a bankrupt, or has taken the benefit of any of the acts for the relief of insolvent debtors, and has not paid 20s. in the pound, this court being of opinion that the terms of the 39th standing order, disqualifying members of the court from serving on committees or commissions chosen by this court, or from becoming governors of either of the Royal Hospitals, by virtue of an appointment of this court, should be applied and acted upon in the cases of candidates for judicial appointments under the corporation.”
Mr. Corrie, whom the profession would have been willing to see preferred to the judicial office, unfortunately lost the election by two votes, and the scramble for the coveted prize terminated by Mr. M. Kerr's getting it.
PARLIAMENTARY. The doings of the new parliament during the short session, now terminating in favour of the moors, must be briefly adverted to. Our main difficulty in alluding to them here, is the uncertainty and incompleteness which attend measures at this period of the session. No one knows what may not be slipped through, or postponed, compromised, or muddled, in the last struggles.
Lord St. Leonards' “ Law of Property and Trustees' Relief Amendment Bill,” having been again carried through the House of Lords, is now in the Commons. The old objection there formerly made to the clause exonerating a purchaser from crown debts upon which process had not issued, may, we fear, be again advanced to the detriment of this truly useful law reform. There is evidently a misapprehension on this matter in official minds. Under the statutes 33.