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corruption. This very difficult subject, which the House of Commons had for many years past vainly endeavoured to grapple with, had been remitted in the preceding Session to a Select Committee of that House, whose inquiries had resulted in a recommendation which, if adopted, involved a material change in the law and practice of Parliainent. The measure proposed was the abdication by the House of Commons of the privilege hitherto tenaciously adhered to, of exclusive jurisdiction as to the elections of its own members. This indeed had been regarded by many generations of statesmen as an indispensable privilege of an independent legislature, and in all the changes which had taken place in the mode of exercising the jurisdiction in question the right itself had been jealously guarded and insisted upon. At length, however, the opinion which had for some time been gaining strength prevailed, that the competency and impartiality of the tribunal was even of higher importance than the conservation of a constitutional principle which the great change in the balance of political power in modern times had reduced almost to a nominal value. Experience had proved that the Election Committees did not satisfactorily fulfil the office either of detecting electoral corruption or of determining the rights of conflicting claimants to a seat. They were neither wholly exempt from the suspicion of partiality according as the composition of the particular tribunal might impress it with a party bias, nor even if they escaped such imputation were they considered to possess the judicial attributes which might qualify them to ascertain the truth and enforce the penalties of the law upon the offender.

Impressed with this conviction, the Select Committee, which included several leading members of the House of Commons, arrived at the conclusion that the time had come when, in order to grapple effectually with the hitherto irrepressible vice of electoral corruption, the jurisdiction of the House as to the elections of its own members should cease and determine. In resolving, however, to part with this power the Committee pronounced in decided terms that there was one condition upon which alone they would consent to the abolition of the privilege, namely, that the jurisdiction should be transferred to no judicial body except to the highest known to the Constitution, the judges of the superior Courts at Westminster. It was recommended that

every case of a controverted election should be tried before a single judge, having the absolute decision both of law and fact, with power to report not only as to the seat but as to the existence of bribery or corruption at the election, with which the House might afterwards deal in the exercise of its powers as it should see fit.

The reform thus proposed in the election tribunal appeared likely to meet with no unfavourable reception either in the House of Commons itself or with the public, but an obstacle arose to the execution of the plan which at first seemed likely to be of a formidable character. The judges, upon being consulted, with one voice condemned the proposal, and declared that the fulfilment by them of such a function would be inconsistent with their other duties and would, in consequence of the peculiar character of the inquiries and the strong feelings excited by them, not improbably involve discredit to their judicial character. The Lord Chief Justice addressed to the Lord Chancellor a letter, which was made public, in which these objections were urged in forcible terms. Remonstrances coming from such a quarter naturally produced much effect upon the minds of the Government, who recoiled from imposing on the chief magistrates of the realm a duty they were so unwilling to assume, and which they so strongly deprecated on public grounds. In deference to these objections it was determined to propose to the House of Commons a modification of the scheme of the Select Committee, substituting for the superior judges a Court consisting of three persons to be specially appointed for the trial of petitions, to whose jurisdiction it was proposed also to annex some other functions of a cognate kind. In propounding this measure to the House, Mr. Disraeli did not conceal his own reluctance to surrender the original scheme proposed by the Committee, explaining that he did so with some disappointment, but in deference to scruples to which the Government felt bound to defer. The alternative plan was not received with favour by the House. The objection to create a special tribunal for a jurisdiction so limited and occasional as the trial of Election petitions which rarely occur in any number except in the first Session after a General Election was forcibly urged, and it was still more strongly insisted upon that to none less than the highest judicial power in the country ought the House of Commons to consent to transfer its constitutional privilege. With regard to the validity of the objections raised by the judges some differences of opinion were expressed.

Mr. Lowe said he was disposed to resent the protest of the judges, and to doubt that they had any more right than other public servants to refuse duties imposed on them by Parliament.

Lord Cranborne defended the conduct of the judges in this matter as eminently wise and patriotic, and argued that as most of them had been active party men, and might still be supposed to retain party predilections, to throw these semi-political duties upon them would be to weaken the unlimited confidence at present reposed in them.

Sir R. Palmer said the judges had done no more than their duty in protesting against this semi-political function, if they believed that it would weaken public confidence in their administration of the law. Moreover, as election committees usually came together after a general election, it would be necessary to have four or five new judges to try them with necessary expedition. The general business of the country did not need such an increase.

Mr. Gladstone pointed out two considerations in favour of a transference of jurisdiction-one, that committees could only deal with the questions between the two candidates, and could not enter

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on a general examination of the manner in which the electoral franchise had been exercised in a particular borough; the other, that by the present system the immense advantages of a local inquiry were sacrificed. To the principle of a transference of jurisdiction he did not object, but it must be to the superior judges. The question he held to be-would the House give this power to the highest authorities of the law, or retain it in its own hands? The defects of the present system would be raised to a maximum by the creation of an inferior tribunal.

Mr. Bright denied that the case was so desperate as to require the House to give up this important privilege. But for the prevention

. of bribery he preferred to trust rather to the inevitable enlargement of constituencies and the adoption of the ballot.

Upon the whole the tone of the debate on this first promulgation of the measure was adverse to its adoption, nor did its reception out of doors indicate the satisfaction of the public. It did not, therefore, create any surprise when Mr. Disraeli, in moving the second reading of the Bill, frankly admitted that he thought the objections made to the projected tribunal were well founded ; he therefore now proposed to substitute another plan, viz., that two judges of one of the superior courts of law at Westminster should be appointed, with the same salary that they had when judges, and that they should investigate petitions on controverted elections on the spot; that on their appointment to this office they should cease to be ordinary judges, but that they should become members of the Privy Council, and form part of the Judicial Committee, and also be required to sit in the Exchequer Chamber, or such other appeal court of an analogous character as might hereafter be appointed. He thought that by this means they would obviate the objections of the Lord Chief Justice to these duties being thrown upon the judges.

Mr. Gladstone thought this tribunal an improvement on that first proposed. At the same time it was a tribunal of a novel character, involving many points for consideration, and he did not preclude bimself from objecting to it hereafter.

On the order of the day for going into Committee on the Bill Mr. Mitchell moved an amendment which put in issue the expediency of transferring the jurisdiction over Election petitions to an exterior tribunal. The amendment was as follows :“That while the House earnestly desires to provide the best tribunal for the trial of controverted elections, and to ensure the detection and punishment of bribery and corruption, it is not prepared to assent to any measure which aims at the destruction of its ancient privilege to hold in its own hands the power of determining who are its members.He said this Bill would place the House of Commons under the power of a judge appointed by the Crown. The tribunal ought to consist of one member from each side of the House, with a legal assessor, and their report to the House should be acted upon if not questioned within a certain time.

The resolution underwent much discussion, but was ultimately rejected without a division. Mr. J. S. Mill, in commenting upon

a the principle of the Bill, observed, “there was some reason in the objection against turning the jurisdiction of the House over to a judge appointed by the Crown ; but one way of getting over this would be to make the Act temporary.”

Upon a further amendment being moved, which again raised the question of the removal of the trial of petitions from Parliament to a Court of Law, a division took place, when the principle of the Bill was affirmed by 178 to 158. Another proposition, modifying, to a large extent, the scheme proposed by the Bill, was started by Mr. Bouverie. He moved to substitute clauses providing that Election Committees should consist of five members; that three additional common law judges should be appointed, one of whom should sit as President of Election Committees, and decide all questions of law that might arise, and certify to the Speaker the decision of the Committee, who should, in fact, sit as a jury to hear the merits of the petition. He urged the impolicy of establishing a foreign tribunal to judge the conduct of members, and said the House should not part with its ancient jurisdiction.

This proposition did not meet with any considerable support, and was negatived by a large majority, on a division. The question being again raised as to the mode of constituting the new tribunal, Mr. Lowe recommended that three new judges should be added to the judicial staff in Westminster Hall to discharge precisely the same description of duties as their fellows now do in the different courts, the whole body of judges to arrange among themselves the rotation in which they should perform their functions.

Some further discussion ensued, in the course of which the propriety of appointing judges at all was canvassed with considerable animation.

Mr. Disraeli then proposed a new modification of his measure, to the effect that the trial of Election petitions should be conducted by a single judge to be selected from a rota which should be formed by arrangement among the judges of the three superior courts. The right honourable gentleman also announced that in order to make the new system experimental only, he should propose to limit the duration of the Bill to three years. The Committee agreed to these proposals, but they rejected, by a considerable majority, a clause originated by the Government, for authorizing an extra allowance of 5001. to the judges placed upon the rota for Election petitions. A variety of other amendments were proposed and discussed during the sittings of the Committee, which occupied many days during the last few weeks of the Session. Several of these amendments related to the expenses of the elections, and those attending the trials of the Election petitions, which it was proposed to throw in whole or in part upon the constituencies themselves, but they were ultimately negatived by the Committee. Mr. Clay renewed an attempt, often made before without success, to prevent the commission of bribery by making the renunciation of corrupt practices obligatory on the consciences of the members elected. He moved a clause requiring every person returned to Parliament to make at the table a solemn declaration that he had not bribed, and would not directly or indirectly do so, and rendering him liable to a penalty of 5001. and parliamentary disability should it be proved that he had made a false declaration. His object, he said, was to make it impossible for the man who was corruptly returned to hold up his head again in society, that he might be black-balled at clubs, and that his acquaintances might lament the misfortune of having been intimate with him.

Sir Colman O’Loghlen opposed the clause. They had recently got rid of promissory oaths, so that if they were to sanction this clause they would be retrograding with regard to the principle of oaths and declarations. When men had to swear to a qualification they

. did not hesitate to do so.

The Solicitor-General also opposed the clause on the ground that such a declaration whenever tried had been always found to be useless.

The Committee rejected the clause by a majority of 85 to 45.

The provisions of the Bill, originally proposed for England only, having been made applicable to Ireland and Scotland, it was read a third time, and sent to the House of Lords just before the expiration of the Session. On the second reading being moved by the Earl of Malmesbury, Earl Russell regretted that the Bill had not come before the house at an earlier period, in order to introduce some material amendments. He believed investigation on the spot would not only be economical but would have a powerful effect in checking corrupt practices; he doubted, however, the policy of calling upon the judges to decide questions which must often be mixed up with political passions and party warfare. But, as the Bill was avowedly only an experiment for a limited period, their lordships would do well to agree to it.

A short discussion followed, in which the Lord Chancellor and Lords Romilly, Harrowby, and Stratford de Redcliffe took part, and the Bill was read a second time, and having passed through Committee without amendment, received the Royal Assent on the last day of the Session.

In consequence of the occurrence of circumstances having an important bearing on the relations of parties in the House of Commons, and which will be related hereafter, it was mutually agreed that arrangements should be made whereby the Elections under the new law might take place in the ensuing autumn, so that the new Parliament might be enabled to hold a short session before the expiration of the year. In order to give effect to this design it was necessary that the proceedings required to be taken for the revision of the Electoral Lists should be accelerated and brought to a close at an earlier period than was

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