Page images

bability is they have had no experience worthy of mentioning, and to these men is to belong the exclusive chance of being chosen for the cffice."

These and such remarks as these were at that time freely bandied about by those who were adverse to the stipendiary magistrate, and they have been repeated. with variations ever since. The Bar, on the other hand, has had its defenders. Sir George Stephen objects that the unpaid magistracy are not only ignorant of the law, but of legal principles. “ Points are often raised before a bench, not a member of which has ever read a law book in his life, or acquired Latin enough to understand its phraseology." Even the simplest rules of practice regulating the order of proceeding are sometimes beyond their comprehension, or if they do comprehend them, are arbitrarily set aside as inconvenient. They are uncertain in their attendance, keep the public waiting, and cannot get on without the assistance of the clerk, a professional man who is interested by fees in obtaining convictions. They have also an especial horror of and hatred to poachers. Such are the charges combined with the cry of “Justices' Justice," which are hurled at the unpaid magistracy. We all know well enough that each side overstates the truth, that some of the ablest magistrates both of the paid or unpaid bench are members of the Bar, while the devotion to their duty and the thorough knowledge both of law and practice of their courts, possessed by many lay justices of the peace, are not excelled by any member of the Bar.

We believe that one of the principal reasons why the stipendiary magistrates are not more numerous, is from a mistaken economy on the part of the town councils. It cannot be expected that any member of the Bar, with a fair and reasonable chance of success in his profession, would accept an appointment of £600 a-year, or even £300, which would absolutely shelve him for life : while the necessary dignity, command of temper, tact, and knowledge of the world, which are so especially necessary to a stipendiary magistrate, could scarcely be expected of a youth of five years'

standing at the Bar. There is in fact no supply of suitable material at the price offered.

This being so, we cannot be astonished at a claim lately put forward on behalf of clerks to magistrates to what they may fairly conceive to be their natural' promotion. They are educated men, being either solicitors, or clerks who have satisfied the Civil Service Commissioners by competitive examinations. They acquire, by constant attendance at the courts, a thorough knowledge of law and practice, yet they cannot receive promotion because they are not barristersthey cannot become barristers because they are clerks of the magistrates, however otherwise eligible by birth, position, and education. While in every trade of life, in the professions, in every grade but theirs, promotion is given to the skilled workman, to them it is denied by a simple trades' union rule of the Bar. The sums paid to the magistrates' clerks in many large towns in fees, would be sufficient to provide ample funds both for the clerk and for a stipendiary magistrate, especially if the latter were selected from the clerical body. The clerks might first pass through a grade as assistant magistrates, and then be on a par with counsel for selection for the post of magistrate.

We have now rapidly glanced at the rival claimants to the office of magistrate. There can be no doubt that the stipendiary magistracy system might be greatly extended without cost to the boroughs which adopt it. The facility with which business can be done at all hours would tend to increase the fees of the courts, and the amount should be sufficient to pay the expenses, while there is no reason that the magistrate should not perform the duties of coroner upon the system pursued by Sheriffs fiscal in Scotland.


[ocr errors]



By Thomas BaLCH, author of "Les Français en Amérique,” “Les Crises Financiéres,” et “les Chemins

de fer Americans,” etc. TEN years ago, the grave questions involved in the escape

of the Alabama and her subsequent depredations were the subject of much thought and anxiety, and many were the suggestions made by the friends of peace, as to a possible disposition of the controversy without resort to war. The situation had no encouraging aspect. Indeed, it is difficult to realize to-day how very hostile and angry were the two parties. The attitude assumed throughout by the English government was such as to preclude apparently any hope of adjustment, and the American Minister at London was obliged to content himself at least with merely sending in a fresh claim for damages in a stereotyped phraseology. As the war for secession approached its close, the Americans began to realize somewhat the enormous losses attendant upon it, not the least of which was the absolute destruction of their commerce. The temper of the people was thoroughly roused, and any hostile demonstration at Washington would have met with a hearty and unanimous response throughout the country. President Lincoln not only remained calm himself, but wisely calmed as far as he could the popular excitement.

The most common method of settling national disputes, in modern times, where resort was had to arbitration, had been a reference to a monarch selected by the contending parties. But this plan was open to serious objections. Experience had disclosed that sovereigns were not free from the weaknesses of less exalted persons, and that prince and peasant alike, when once appointed sole arbiter, cannot resist man's innate tendency to find some award which will “split the difference,” and which usually leaves the re

spective disputants equally dissatisfied. The United States had refused to accept such an award some years previously. A similar experience would have merely further exasperated a contest already sufficiently inflamed and imbittered.

Another objection was in the great difficulty of finding a reigning sovereign who would prove acceptable to both parties. Napoleon III. was of a restless, yet dreamy character.

He was not a statesman, scarcely even a politician. He was not satisfied with political intrigue, for it was his nature to conspire. In 1859, therefore, obeying in part the behest of his temperament, he undoubtedly held close relations with some of the Southern gentlemen then in Paris, afterwards very prominent in the Confederate Councils. At the time, these relations were more or less matters of surmise or report. Later, they were stated in detail in the

Indépendance Belge,” in the winter of 1860-61, and were said to have been in substance, that an appeal had been made to the Emperor as head of the French race, on the ground that the larger part of the white inhabitants of Louisiana, of Florida, and South Carolina, and a portion of them in the other States, were of French extraction ; that thereupon had been promised to these self-constituted plenipotentiaries an immediate recognition by France and England of the Seceding States, in case the separation was peaceably effected, and a prompt recognition as belligerents in case of an armed struggle.* Some not very obscure intimations were given that at need something more than moral and political support might be relied on. This remarkable communication was doubtless no more than a correcter statement of the reports of the day. At all events it passed unchallenged, and subsequent events led close observers to believe, that it had been prepared by some one in authority. Not only was the Mexican expedition

• It has been recently stated in the newspapers that the Comte de Paris, in the forthcoming volumes of La Guerre Civile en Amérique, will remonstrate that the French and English proclamations to this effect were premature, and contrary to the recognized usuages of amical nations.

undertaken, but the Emperor and his ministers were actively at work, meddling, plotting against the American Government, until at last they went so far as to actually invite England and Russia to co-operate with France and insist upon an armistice.*

This mischievous activity was probably of more service than otherwise to the Northern States; but it had in one way or another provoked expressions of opinion from such important personages as von Bismarck, von Beust, Gortschakoff, and others, that it might be fairly said that there did not remain a court which was not in some way so compromised that it was quite impossible to find a royal referee.

Another grave objection to asking a sovereign to act as arbitrator lay in the fact, that a decision in the case of the Alabama could not be arrived at without passing in review almost all that part of international law which related to neutrals. A very serious matter indeed, in which the whole world was interested ; an occasion which ought to serve for a great and marked progress, and a settlement on a firmer and more just basis of the rules which should govern neutrals and belligerents. The United States had naturally, before their independence was recognized and at all times subsesequently, maintained that the evils of a war should fall on the belligerents alone. Neutrals had hardships enough to bear in the commercial disorders and the financial losses consequent upon a serious disturbance of the general peace ; therefore, the only possible pretence for the interference of a belligerent with a neutral was that of self-defence, in other words, to prevent the neutral from giving “aid and comfort” to the enemy. They contended that the sea-going vessels

After these lines were sent to the printers, I received from a friend a catting from the New York Erpress, Sept. 1, giving an account of an interview between Prince Gortschakoff and the American Minister at St. Petersburg, in which the Rnssian Chancellor is represented as going even further than is stated in the published Diplomatic Correspondence. The article asserts that in the event of any European interference, the Czar would have aided the Northern States with his fleet then at New York.

« PreviousContinue »