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that length — then the Lord Chancellor sonable compass and areasonablyshortspace must give his directions, or, if there was of time. He had shewn that every pressing any doubt on the subject, a short enact- case might be, and was, heard immediately, ment would do it in a moment, that the and that every case which was not pressparties should proceed before the Courting might be heard within the space of two upon the same evidence on which they months after the petition was filed. This proceeded in the Court below, and then was the actual state of the case. Another they would have all they required. The objection was made to the present system, hon. and learned Gentleman opposite namely, that the Commissioners did not seemed to forget, that the Commissioners attend to their duty—that they had to had the power of examining witnesses attend to several commissions at the vivá voce. Their depositions were taken same moment. If it was as the learned down in writing from the mouth of the Serjeant, or one of his hon. and learned witnesses, from questions put to them; friends told them---if a Commissioner were if it were known by the parties that the so to misconduct himself as to be busying case would be tried by the Court above, himself with a newspaper when he ought to upon the same evidence as that taken be- adıninister justice, could it possibly be fore the Commissioners, they would arm supposed that a Judge who so misconthemselves with their witnesses before the ducted himself would not be instantly Commissioners — they would take the removed by the Lord Chancellor, who had greatest pains to have the latter properly at any time the power of taking up his brought before the Court below, and there pen and striking him out of the list? If would not then be so many appeals there was any real cause of complaint-if from their decision. Did all this render it really were a mischief that the Commisthis Act of Parliament necessary? What sioners at public meetings at Basinghallwas the nature of the present tribunal? It Street, which place was now substituted was established in the reign of Queen for Guildhall, should attend to several Elizabeth; it was amended by Lord meetings at the same time-why did not Hardwicke; it was improved again by the Lord Chancellor prevent it? Why Lord Thurlow, and his great successor; did he not-as he might-issue an order no part of it was attempted to be sub- that only one commission should be atverted by Sir Samuel Romilly; and these tended to at a time, and that a given alterations were proposed under the au- portion of time should be allowed for each spices of a Judge of whom he wished to commission ? He had the power, and, if speak with all possible public and private it was required of him, he ought to exrespect; but who, for all that, had not been ercise it. Why bad no Lord Chancellor at the head of that jurisdiction yet barely done so ? Because it was not requisite to twelve months. Under this jurisdiction, be done: if it were requisite, the number questions were, in the first instance, mooted of appeals would be somewhat greater before Commissioners selected by the than he had mentioned: he had stated Lord Chancellor, who was responsible if what proportion the appeals bore to the they were not properly qualified; for, he decisions; and could any one suppose that, might change all, or any of them, at a if the business were so improperly transmoment's notice. The examination of the acted, the number of appeals would not witness was viva voce, he was confronted be considerably increased? In point of with the person to whom he was opposed, fact, however, the business at public and, in the event of a party appealing Meetings was generally of such a nature from the decision of the Commissioners, he that, without any inconvenience, two had his option of going either before the or three Commissions might go on at Lord Chancellor or Vice-Chancellor. He the same time ; because, if it should had shewn that this jurisdiction might be turn out that the matter was one rerelieved from all the inconveniences of quiring grave deliberation and discussion, it affidavit evidence-if affidavit evidence was adjourned to a private meeting. He was was generally inconvenient, which he was not goivg round about to avoid mentioning sure no lawyer in that House would say the evils of this subject. He was shewing -without being prepared to go this length. that it was not inconsistent with the due He had shewn, that delay did not exist, and administration of bankruptcy that considerthat affidavits, if aftidavits were to be used, ing the nature of the business transacted would necessarily be brought within a rea- I at Basinghall-street, three or four public

may as well

meetings might be held at the same time;' that one Commission is so complicated if this was not the case, and if this were an that it is difficult to do anything else : evil, whose fault was it? Why, it was the • at the same time, when a large failure fault of the Lord Chancellor; and if any takes place, it is the practice to devote Commissioner should not think it worth

the meeting to it exclusively.'—* Then it his while to remain in a commission, in is your opinion that you can attend to respect of which he should be so occupied the business to be done under Commisand so restricted, the numbers might, if | ‘sion A as well as B ?' “Under A it may necessary, be diminished and so reduced happen that there may be nothing to be as to make these offices worth the atten- • done; and, in that case, I tion of a sufficient number of competent attend to another : it hardly ever hapindividuals. He did not mean to defend 'pens that three Commissions at the same the practice of taking several commissions time have the same quantity of business.' at the same time; but if there was any He had now shewn, from the evidence of practical mischief in it, it was for the Mr. Roots, than whom a more experienced Lord Chancellor to correct it. He would, Commissioner did not exist, that more while on the subject, trouble the House than one Commission could be attended with the evidence given before the Chan- to at once, and this shewed why the Lord cery Commission by his learned friend Chancellor had not interfered. Before he Mr. Roots, known by most of them as a left this part of the subject, he would very experienced and judicious Commis- shortly address himself to the number of sioner of Bankrupts, who had been a meetings held under Commissions. ObCommissioner in the year 1825---when servations had been made on the temptathat gentleman gave the evidence to tions to which these gentleinen were which he was about to refer-upwards of exposed, to neglect a proper performance twenty years, and who had practised in of their duty, and to increase the number the bankruptcy business in the Court of of meetings, on account of the profits Chancery for a period now extending over arising from them. It happened fortua quarter of a century. He was asked, nately that they had the means of ascerWould it not be a very material improve- taining the average number of meetings ment to have the Commissioners distri- held under Commissions in London, and • buted in such a manner as to ensure the result of that average at once precluded

their attention ? His answer was, I do the possibility of the justice of any such * not think that, in general, such an observation. The number of London arrangement could be made, so as to be Commissions opened in the course of a productive of benefit, for one reason, year, taking an average of twelve years, • anong others, as I have already stated, was 650. The average income of the

that there is not enough business in each London Commissioners, derived from fees • Commission to employ the whole of the at meetings alone, might be safely taken • Commissioners, and therefore one Com- at 26,0001. a-year; that sum divided ‘missioner might sit for an hour and have among fourteen lists came to exactly 401.

nothing at all to do.' He meant to shew, Commission upon 650 Commissions, and before he sat down, that the new Judges 401. a Commission would give, as near as to be appointed under this Bill would, possible, thirteen meetings under every during three-fourthis of the year, have no- Commission ; that was the average under thing whatever to do. The former gentle- London Commissions of a considerable man stated, in answer to a question put to number of years. Of those thirteen meethim, 'I doubt whether any very material ings, some were public and some private. " benefit would arise from that, if the Among the public meetings were included • Commissioners take care not to hold too mere matters of course, the execution of 'many meetings together.'— Then you the assignment, for instance, and other *think no improvement would result from matters of that description, which were • that? "No; because it is but seldom inevitable under all Commissions; there*that any Commission in itself requires so fore he was taking it at a fair calculation, much exclusive attention, unless in an when he said, that the average number of extraordinary case--the failure of a very private meetings under every

London large house, for instance, in the course Commission, did not exceed six, or at the • of which you have most difficult matters utmost seven. Could the House consider 'to inquire into. But it is very seldom this as a very large proportion, when the

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great and important mercantile interests | know, that most eminent lawyers from the involved in the administration of London cominon-law Bar, who had come to preside Commissions were taken into considera- in the Courts of equity, and who, of course, tion? Could any man living say, that an were most competent to deliver an opinion, average of six or seven private meetings said, that highly as they valued Trial by under each London Commission was more Jury, invaluable as it was in this country than was proper? He really was surprised in some cases, yet in the majority of merand astonished when he received this cantile questions it was not the most satisinformation from authentic sources, to factory tribunal, because the verdict of a find that it was possible to transact such Jury was liable to be inflnenced by a important business with so small a number powerful advocate. He would not endeaof private meetings. What became, vour to deprecate Trial by Jury, but in such then, of the taxation and oppression of cases as these it was not necessary to private meetings? What of the argument extend the number of issues. The Bill, in with respect to those extraordinary cases the first place, established a Court in of twenty or thirty meetings under one Bankruptcy, to consist of four Judges, Commission ? He had shewn to the who were to form a Court of Review, and House, that the average number of meet- were always to sit in public, “except as ings was six or seven; and considering otherwise directed by this Act," there being what this business was, and considering no such direction in any part of the Bill. that the whole expense of these meetings If this Bill should ever find its was so very small, was there any occasion Committee, there was no doubt that this for legislation on this point? There were part must be amended. All the jurisdicno practical grievances which could not tion in bankruptcy that was now exercised be remedied by an order of the Lord Chan- by the Lord Chancellor or the Vice-Chancellor; the expense was much less than it cellor, was given to these Judges. There had been stated to be; but it was again might be cases in which issues might be stated, as an objection, that in many directed most advantageously to the interinstances enormous masses of affidavits est of all parties concerned.

At present, were thrown away, because the Court, country cases were tried at the nearest when it came to hear the case, declared assizes, and the witnesses being resident itself incompetent to decide it, and directed on the spot, of course the parties were not an issue to be tried; this, the hon. and put to any very great expense in bringing learned Gentlemen on the other side them before the Court; but under this new declared to be a case of frequent occur- Bill, on every petition in bankruptcy,

He would tell those hon. and whether it was in a country case or a town learned Gentlemen, and one in particular, case, the issue was to be tried by one of that this was a subject of which he could the Judges of this Court, in his own Court know nothing, never having practised in here, and nowhere else. Supposing this the Court. Out of 600 petitions set down part of the Bill were to remain in its prefor hearing in the course of a year, not sent state, he would beg to ask those hon. more than ten on the average were sent to and learned Gentlemen who talked of the a Jury. Really, anybody who had heard expense of the present system, whether the hon. member for Winchelsea, would they did not think the expense would be suppose that this enormous expense was increased to an enormous extent? This incurred in almost every case. In fact, was clearly a lapsus ; but he could shew issues were only directed at all in those five hundred other points for the purpose cases where the Court, in endeavouring to of bringing under the consideration of the satisfyitself on conflicting evidence, thought House, the manner in wbich this Bill, by that justice might be better administered which the whole commercial law of the by that means, and where it did happen country was to be altered, had been brought that the questions to be investigated were forward, and on which Bill he was driven, of such a nature as to require the examina- at that late bour of the night, and at the tion of witnesses in open Court. It was very expiration of the Session, to address also said by the hon. and learned Gentle- the House. In addition to the Judges of man, that many questions ought to be sent this Court, there were to be three clerks to a Jury which were not now so disposed and a secretary appointed ; and all costs of. Ile did not know on what ground this of suit between party and party in this argument might be founded, but he did Court of Review were to be taxed by one of the Masters in Chancery. So that this Bill deprived of all knowledge and experiCourt was not even to tax the bills of its ence. He might be wrong, certainly, in own practitioners, but they were to be the view he took of some parts of this Bill, submitted to the revision of another Court. but so he understood them. The Bill then The mode of preventing both delay and went on to say, that the country Commislitigation was this. Commissioners were sioners should be selected by a Master in to be divided into two subo ision Courts Chancery, who was to exercise his discre


-of course three in each, for the purpose tion as to fit and proper persons. It was of taking examinations, and questions not to be forgotten that this Bill gave the which were referred from a single Com- power of committal to country Commismission were to go to these Courts, unless sioners, that was to say, to country the Commissioners should think fit to attornies; and was it to be endured, that direct otherwise. What this otherwise the whole commercial law of the country was to be, nobody knew. These subdivi- was to be exercised in this way, by indision Courts might sit in public or private, viduals selected in this manner? The Bill as occasion might require; and the Act then proceeded to the enactment of a new directed that it should be lawful for one or oath to be taken by Commissioners in the more of these Commissioners to exercise country, and afterwards to a long and all the duties vested in the Commissioners laborious provision with respect to the of Bankrupts, provided always that the manner of proceeding, in case the bank. single Commissioner should have the rupt should dispute the adjudication. power to commit any bankrupt or otherThat if any trader adjudged bankrupt person examined before him, unless as • shall be minded to dispute such adjudidirected by the Bill. Now, at present, cation, and shall present a petition praythree Commissioners had the power of ing ihe reversal thereof to the said Court committing a bankrupt. The Act, with a of Review, such petition to be presented laudable anxiety for the liberty of the within two calendar months from the subject, provided that that should be the date of such adjudication, if such trader case. But the effect of this Bill wonld be, shall be then residing within the United that one Commissioner could exercise that Kingdom, or within three calendar months important duty which was now vested in from the date aforesaid, if then residing three. This was most objectionable. The in any other part of Europe, or within proceeding before Commissioners of Bank- one year from the date.aforesaid, if then rupts at the present time, was well known residing elsewhere, &c. A commission and understood by the House. The Com- of bankruptcy was an ex parte proceeding, mission was in common use, and contained and a man might be made a bankrupt words to which successive times had ap- without having any previous notification plied a meaning; but this Act struck away of it. Accoruing to this Bill, although at the Commission, and produced something the time of his being made a bankrupt he in the nature of a fiat, which no one could might be at the extremity of Russia in understand from the provisions of this Bill. Europe--still he was to have no redress, It was enacted, that in every case in which if the adjudication was an improper one, the Lord Chancellor had power to issue a unless he proceeded within the space of Commission under the Great 'Seal, it three months. A commission of bankshould be lawful for him so to do, and also ruptey might be taken out against a man for the Master of the Rolls, the Vice- the moment after he had sailed for India : Chancellor, and each Master in Chancery, he night be totally unaware even of the and so on-in short, the effect of this probability of such a thing occurring; the provision was, to alter a power wbich, from Commission might have been sued out the reign of Queen Elizabeth down to the under the most vexatious circumstances ; present time, had been committed to the yet, according to the provision of the Bill, Lord Chancellor alone. At present, if if the adjudged bankrupt did not, within there was the slightest doubt on the docket the space of twelve months—which, in paper—the paper on which the Commis- most instances, would be impossible — sion issues respecting the owing of the institute proceedings in England to dispute debt, and so on-it was submitted to the the adjudication, he would be declared a Lord Chancellor, but in future it was to bankrupt for ever. These considerations be submitted not only to him but to those convinced him (Mr. Knight) of the necesJudges whom the very principle of this sity of considering the provisions of this



VOL. VIII. { Seried}


Bill fully and minutely, and of the impro-' said Court shall proceed with such lastpriety of proceeding with so important a mentioned examination, and finally, and subject at this hour of the morning. The without any appeal, except upon matter next clause related to the power of the of law or equity, or of the refusal or the Lord Chancellor to annul the fiat. It admission of evidence, shall determine provided – That it shall be lawful for the upon such proof of debts. Provided Lord Chancellor, upon the reversal of always, that in case, before the said any adjudication of bankruptcy, or for Commissioner, or Subdivision Court, both such other cause as he shall think fit, to parties, the assignees or the major part of order that any fiat issued by virtue of them, of whom one to be the official this Act shall be rescinded or annulled ; assignee, and the creditor, consent to have . and such order shall have all the force the validity of any debt in dispute tried

and effect of a writ of supersedeas of a ' by a Jury, an issue shall be prepared Commission, according to the existing under the direction of the said Commis• laws and practice in bankruptcy.' This . sioner or Subdivision Court, and sent for involved a direct contradiction to the pre- ' trial before the Chief Judge, or one or ceding provisions of the Bill--a contradic- . more of the other Judges; and if one tion which it was perfectly impossible for party only apply for such issue, the said him to reconcile. At this time, however, Commissioner or Subdivision Court shall it would be vain and idle to dwell upon it. I decide whether or not such trial shall be Then, by the 23rd clause, an alteration had, subject to an appeal, as to such was proposed, for which a good reason decision, to the Court of Review.' Under might be given; but which, as at present this clause, every creditor would be informed, he was totally unable to under- driven to the necessity of either having stand the necessity of. The clause pro- his case tried before a Jury, or of having vided— That it shall be lawful for any it decided in the first instance by the • Commissioner, who shall make any ad- Subdivision Court, without any appeal. judication of bankruptcy, to appoint two The House would judge of the propriety of or more public meetings, instead of the such an enactment. By the next clause * three meetings directed by the said it was provided that if such Commis

recited Act, for the bankrupt to surrendersioner, or Subdivision Court, shall deter* and conform, the last of which said | mine any point of law or matter of 'meetings shall be on the 42nd day by 'equity, or decide on the refusal or ad• the said Act limited for such surrender.'|' mission of evidence, in the case of any Under the existing system three meetings disputed debt, such matter may be of creditors were held. At the second, brought under review of the Court of the assignees were chosen; and at the · Review, by the party who thinks himself third, the bankrupt's accounts were inves- aggrieved; and the proof of the debt tigated. If there were to be but two shall be suspended until such appeal meetings held, and no assignees chosen shall be disposed of, and a sum not exat that time, how were the bankrupt's 'ceeding any expected dividend or diviaccounts to be investigated ? This was a dends on the debt in dispule, in such point of importance, and deserving of proof, may be set apart in the hands of infinitely more attention than at this time ihe said Accountant-General until such of the night it was possible to bestow upon decision be made. If there was any one it. The appointment of the official as proposition more generally acknowledged signees belonged to a distinct head of and acted upon than another in bank observation, which he would pass by, and ruptcy, it was, that the Accountant Gethe next provision could, in his opinion, neral received no money.

Sums were lead only to delay and expense. By the lodged in the Bank under his name, but 34th clause it was enacted-—That any he actually received none.

That was a one of the said six Commissioners may principle which the Bill would invade. By adjourn the examination of any bankrupt, the next clause it was provided – That if or other person, to be taken either before the Court of Review shall determine in 'a Subdivision Court, or the Court of any appeal touching any decision in • Review, or, if need be, before both Courts matter of law, upon the whole merits of ' in succession, and may likewise adjourn'any proof of debt, then the order of the the examination of a proof of debt, to be said Court shall finally determine the heard before a Subdivision Court, which question as to the said proof, unless an

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