« PreviousContinue »
was noted for his restraint of ex-officio “informations." In January, 1824, he was appointed Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, and the honour of a peerage quickly followed, his services being more particularly required in the House of Lords, to assist Lord Eldon in the hearing of Scotch appeals, with the legal procedure and technicalities of which Gifford, with his usual facility, had already made himself familiar. The following letter gives an account of his reception by the King at Brighton, and of his own choice of a title, together with an interesting glimpse of his first day in court on the bench
“Serjeant's Inn, Jan. 23, 1824 “MY DEAR MOTHER,
“I am just returned from my first exhibition in the Court of Common Pleas as Chief Justice, and am sitting here in chambers till five o'clock, to despatch the business occurring there. I was somewhat nervous, as you may well imagine, at entering upon my new office, but feel that I shall soon get over it. My equipage was most dashing. The two footmen in new liveries (blue and yellow) —the latter colour we have substituted for orange, as we think it will wear better-cocked hats, silk stockings, bag wigs, buckles, and canes. The coachman attired accordingly; and Grant (his clerk) and my train-bearer in full dress, with swords. I enter into these particulars as I know they will amuse you, tho' too trilling to be mentioned to any one else. Harriet has, I know, written to you an account of our pleasant visit at Cambridge, and the honour conferred on me there, * which, as well as the manner of bestowing it, gratified me exceedingly. On Monday, accompanied by the new Chief Baron,t I went to Brighton, in order to be admitted and sworn a Privy Counsellor. The King had most graciously sent us an invitation, or rather a command, to dine with him after the ceremony, and had ordered beds to be provided for us in the Pavilion. We got to Brighton between three and four o'clock, and, having been refreshed with soup, walked about till five o'clock, when we returned to the Palace, and attired ourselves for the Council, which was held about six. After the ceremony of being admitted a Privy Counsellor, we adjourned to the drawing-rooms, and, soon after seven, dined. The party consisted of about six-and-thirty, amongst whom were * D.C.L. Degree.
† Sir William Alexander.
Lord and Lady Liverpool, the Duke of Wellington, Lord and Lady Conyngham, etc., etc. The dinner was, as you may imagine, most magnificent, and the dining- and music-rooms surpassed anything I have ever seen in splendour. We did not sit long after dinner; and as soon as the King rose, the company went to the music-room, where was performed some excellent music. Towards the end of the evening, the King left the sofa on which he had been sitting, and came over to me, and made me sit down by him, and kept me in conversation for a quarter of an hour, and was more complimentary and flattering than I dare to repeat. We retired about eleven, and on Tuesday, shortly after breakfast, I set out again for town, much gratified by my visit. I had an official dinner to give that day, and another next Wednesday. Yesterday I was quiet, and to-day am to dine with the judges here. . . . I have determined to keep my name, and in a few days shall be · Lord Gifford of St. Leonard's.': Don't mention anything I have written, and believe me in haste,
“ Yours affectionately,
His tenure of the office of Chief Justice of the Common Pleas was limited to three months, after which he was transferred to what Foss terms "the more appropriate post of Master of the Rolls" (in succession to Sir Thomas Plumer), since during his tenure of the Solicitor-Generalship he had confined his private practice to the Chancery Court, where, after the death of Sir Samuel Romilly, he had the lead. As to his conduct of the Scotch appeals in the House of Lords,
so satisfied were the Scottish lawyers with his decisions, that on a visit to Edinburgh, a short time after this, he was received and invested with extraordinary, honours.” In addition to these duties he was constituted "Deputy Speaker" of the House to assist Lord Eldon in presiding over its deliberations, an office which has never been revived, though its re-constitution was much discussed in the debates on Life Peerages and the reform of the appellate jurisdiction of the House of Lords in 1856. Lord Gifford's transfer to the Mastership of the Rolls was
* In the county of Devon.
more especially determined upon with a view to the reform and simplification of Chancery procedure, the delays in and complexities of which amounted to a public grievance, and had involved a Royal Commission of Inquiry.
That Lord Eldon had in view his own retirement in favour of Lord Gifford as successor to the Chancellorship is clear from his own memoirs, and is confirmed by Lord Tenterden, who wrote as early as 1823 on the subject—"the present Attorney-General (Gifford) will probably be Lord Eldon's successor ; he is a sound lawyer and a sound-hearted man, the fittest man living to succeed one for whom a successor must soon be found—though perhaps an equal there will never be.”
In 1826 Lord Eldon still remained Chancellor. Whether the Canning Ministry, which came into power in 1827, and with which Lord Eldon found himself unable to join, would have accepted his choice of a successor cannot now be determined, since before that date Lord Gifford unfortunately succumbed to a chill, supervening on fatigue and over-work, and he died at Dover on September 4, 1826, at the early age of 48. When in London he resided at the old Rolls house, and he lies buried under what was recently the Rolls Chapel. Care was taken by the authorities that the coffins under the floor of the chapel should not be disturbed, and the tablet to his memory is to be replaced with the other monuments from the demolished chapel in the commemorative hall which is to take its place.
A note by Lord Denman, the future Chief Justice, written at the time of Lord Gifford's death, says, “Gifford's death I do consider very melancholy, and consider it to be brought about by the Equity men's horror of a common lawyer. If the practitioners of those Courts have really so mystified their proceedings that men like Gifford and Copley cannot learn them in three months, no stronger proof can be given of the necessity of radical reform in that department,” and he adds
a little picture of peculiar interest to some of Lord Gifford's descendants. “On Sunday it happened to me to pay a visit to Mr. Holland, at Roehampton, and he took me a ride on which I passed Copley's house, and called to pay my duty. No speaker is to be appointed for the House of Lords, Gifford having cleared off all arrears.”
"High as was his professional character,” writes Foss, “ in private life he was equally to be admired. Unaffected, amiable, kind, and indulgent, he secured the affection of numerous friends, and totally disarmed whatever jealousy might at first have been entertained at his sudden advancement.”
SPENCER L. HOLLAND.
VII.-SOME OBSERVATIONS ON THE PROCE
DURE IN POLICE COURTS.
WHETHER we have regard to the constitution of the
tribunal, to the class of the litigants, or to the number, nature, and variety of the issues involved, it is manifest that every effort should be made to render the practice and procedure in courts of summary jurisdiction as simple and uniform as the circumstances will permit.
It could hardly be maintained that the discharge of business in these courts is marked, at the present time, either by simplicity or by uniformity. On the contrary, the jurisdiction is often somewhat ill-defined, and the practice, in many respects, complex and chaotic. Except, perhaps, in a few instances, it cannot be said that the provisions of the Summary Jurisdiction Acts are in themselves either complicated or obscure; but it is generally recognized that they are quite inadequate to meet the growing requirements of the litigation in which the courts are engaged.
Under statutes such as the Factory Acts, or the Merchandise Marks Act, nice and important questions affecting industry and commerce are constantly being raised for determination. Proceedings under the Employers and Workmen Act and the Public Health Acts frequently involve the consideration of difficult points arising out of disputes of a purely civil character. The issues in these cases are not, however, formulated or defined by any sort of notification or pleading, so that the nature of the defence often takes the complainant's advocate completely by surprise ; and yet, after the opening statement, he is not entitled to address to the Court any remarks on the facts of the case, either by way of "summing up" or in reply. Nor are the parties permitted to prepare themselves against surprise by any of the methods usually adopted in civil actions, such as the discovery of documents ; no provision is made to enable a party to procure either inspection or production before the hearing, and, indeed, in order to ensure the production of a known material document at the trial itself, it is necessary to have recourse to a crown office subpæna.
Not only does the business transacted by Justices of the Peace increase in volume with marked rapidity, but the importance of the matters embraced within the scope of their jurisdiction is also being largely extended. With each advancing year, additional Acts of Parliament, new bye-laws, and fresh departmental regulations, serve to make more urgent the necessity for amendment and reform. And the constantly growing burden is not accompanied, in these recent legislative efforts, by any corresponding alleviation in the shape of a modified or extended procedure. Take an example from the working of the Summary Jurisdiction (Married Women) Act, 1895, under which the legislature has entrusted to magistrates the resolution of some of the most difficult and delicate problems which can possibly arise out of the marital relations. Cruelty, desertion, adultery, connivance and