Billeder på siden

resolutions relating to corporate purposes; courts of law or equity there was no reand that, as the sum proposed to be vested medy; and this he was prepared to show. was not fairly applicable to corporate The only courts to which application purposes, such a resolution was not bind. could be made for redress, were the courts ing upon the whole corporation. That no of Chancery and the King's-bench; but corporate purpose was to be answered was neither of these had jurisdiction in the manifest, from the circumstance of the case he had stated to the House. The right of the corporation being in no man- hon. member then cited the cases of the ner questioned of their interests being corporation of Colchester, and the corporain no degree attempted to be invaded. So tion of Yarmouth, to shew, that in the far, therefore, there was no proof of a cor- one the court of Chancery, which had porate interest requiring the illegal and been applied to, pronounced that it had unconstitutional interference, which, he no jurisdiction in similar questions, though contended, was, in the present instance, it intimated that the court of King'sintroduced into the affairs of the corpora- bench probably had it; and the court of tion, by the vote proposed. What were King's-bench decided, that it possessed fairly to be considered corporate purposes? not the jurisdiction in question, but reJudge Blackstone—no mean authority ferred the parties to the court of Chancery. upon constitutional subjects—said, that This was the doctrine laid down, after all corporations were instituted for the peace, legal argument on the matter had been good order, and good government, of the exhausted by such men as sir Samuel town. The late sir Samuel Romilly adopt- Romilly, sir Arthur Piggott, Mr. Horne, ed this principle, and even enlarged upon and the then Attorney-general, in one it by saying, that corporations were not court; and Mr. Erskine, Mr. Justice only instituted for the good government of Ashurst, and others, in the other. Was particular towns, but for the good of the he not, then, justified in saying no rekingdom at large. Other eminent con-medy was to be found in a court of law stitutional authorities confirmed this opi- or equity? Both courts were applied to nion; but no sound precedent could be on a case similar to that of Northampton, produced in favour of the disposal of the and no redress was obtained. Under these funds of the corporation, in the manner in circumstances it was the duty of the House which they had been disposed of in the to interfere. This was not a question beinstance to which he referred. But let tween subject and subject : it was a questhe House consider the mischief of this tion between parliament and the offenders; conduct, as it operated as a ground for and in no such case had it refused the aid several towns uniting together for the re- of its authority. Let them recollect, too, turn of several members of ministerial the inequality of the parties. If an inprinciples. If the majority of the borough dividual had to contend with a corporate of Northampton were permitted to unite body, with what unequal weapons did they in one instance, why might not that ma- meet! The one had to pay all the exjority unite and coalesce with the majority penses of the contest out of his own of the borough of Leicester, or of any other pocket, while the other, backed by the town, for the support of any member for funds of the body, was enabled to support each of those towns in whose support their one malversation by the commission of majorities might agree. If one, why not another. On such considerations, even all? Why not, also, public companies ? if the law afforded a remedy, the House On the same principle might the Bank of ought to interpose its authority in favour England, the East India company, and of the unprotected individual. How much other wealthy bodies, unite their interests stronger, then, was his claim, when no and patronage for the purpose of influenc-other remedy was to be had! It might ing elections. And thus might the purity be said, that such interference was unof election be destroyed by bodies whose precedented. He was prepared to show funds were legally and constitutionally the reverse to be the fact. In the Irish applicable for local or general benefit only. parliament a petition was presented on one He was aware that the investigation he occasion, from a freeman of Limerick, sought for might be denied on the ground complaining of certain acts of malversation of his having a remedy elsewhere. To committed by the corporation of that city, this he would reply, that his only remedy and the petition was referred to a committee, was in the interposition of parliament, in which afterwards reported upon it. lo that VOL, XVI,



[ocr errors]

case, several resolutions had been passed, j ampton had been such as he had described, and money had been voted for public pur- it ought to be made the subject of serious poses. The corporation had also made investigation ; and that, if neither a court seases of the corporate lands, at very small of law, nor a court of equity, had any rents, and finally a resolution was come to, jurisdiction in the case, it should then be that the interposition of the House was brought under the consideration of parnecessary. In 1819 and 1820, a com- liament. If neither our courts of law nor mittee was appointed respecting the same our courts of equity were competent to city of Limerick, and the House came to enforce a restitution of funds, which, aca resolution, that the practices of the cording to the hon. gentleman, had been corporation were such that the House so grossly misapplied, then, indeed, he should interfere. The hon. gentleman should arrive at the conclusion of the hon. here read from the minutes, one of the gentleman, that the House of Commons resolutions of the Limerick corporation, should throw its doors open to the comto this effect :-“ Resolved unanimously, plaint. But he dissented entirely from that, as a vexatious petition has been pre- the hon. gentleman's premises. The hon. sented to the House of Commons, against gentleman had divided the question into the return of major Vereker, the chamber- two parts. He first asked whether there lain do defend the same.” And then came was anyremedy in the court of King's-bench, an order to reimburse the chamberlain, lord or in a court of equity; to which the hon. Gort, for the expenses incurred by him in gentleman bimself answered, no; and he that defence. The course adopted on that then said, that it therefore became the occasion was, that his hon. friend the duty of the House to interfere. In supmember for Limerick (Mr. Spring Rice) port of his first proposition, the hon. moved for the appointment of a committee, gentleman had cited two authorities. The to examine into the disposition which had first was sir William Blackstone ; but it been made of the corporation funds of was well known that Blackstone did not that city; and that numerous malversations contain any statement materially bearing were brought to light. The decision of on this question. The next authority that committee had been recognized and quoted by the hon. gentleman was the acted upon by the House.

The legisla- dictum of a very eminent person, once a ture bad, in fact, invariably asserted its member of that House ; a man eminent as right to interfere, and put an end to similar a scholar and a lawyer; but by no means abuses. There was no instance in which deficient in zeal as an advocate; and the House had not so interfered. He therefore a man whose dictum in the court trusted that he had made out a prima facie of Chancery it would by no means be case for their interference on the present prudent to adopt as the cool and deliberoccasion: and that his motion would be ate opinion of a judge. What, then, agreed to. If it were rejected, the free- were the hon. gentleman's real authorities dom of election would receive a deep for his premises? One was, that in a case wound; the character of parliament would in which a corporation were charged with suffer; justice would be denied; and applying 2,0001. directly or indirectly for offenders, instead of being punished for a electioneering purposes, the matter being gross act of malversation, would triumph- brought into a court of law, it had been antly escape. The hon. gentleman con- laid down, and properly, that a court of cluded by moving, “That a select com- law could not determine whetherthe act was mittee be appointed to take into considera- right or wrong, and that, unless it was tion the petitions presented to this House, established that the money was criminally complaining of the conduct of the Corpora- applied, the court could not deal with it. tion of Northampton."

But Judge Ashurst said, on that occasion, The Clerk having read the said Pe- that if a breach of trust had been comtitions,

mitted, the proper place for the consideraThe Attorney-General (sir Charles We- tion of the subject was a court of equity, therell) rose to express his dissent from to whose peculiar jurisdiction it belonged. the hon. gentleman's premises, although, if The hon. member had asserted, that in he did not feel himself obliged to do so, he the case of Colchester the lord chancellor should perfectly agree with him in his con- said, that he had no jurisdiction. If so; clusion. He perfectly agreed with him, that if the court of King's-bench had sent the if the conduct of the corporation of North- matter to the court of Chancery, and the


court of Chancery had repudiated it, then it was a most inconvenient course to indeed the hon. gentleman had made bring that which was a fit subject for a out his case. But what were the facts ? court before the House of Commons. To He had himself been of counsel in the consent to such a proceeding would be Colchester case; and, although it was to admit that the ordinary courts were too some years since its occurrence, he had a weak to go on with their


business. recollection of the main facts. There had It was the practice of every day to file inbeen many electioneering contests for the formations in the court of Chancery for borough of Colchester, in which the breaches of trust. In order that it might mayor had espoused one side. In order not be supposed that he had the slightest to pay the expenses of that side the sum wish to screen delinquency, either in this of 2,0001. had been voted by the corpora- or in any other case, he willingly declared, tion to Mr. Lowten, a solicitor in London, as attorney-general, that if a paper, stating who had been the solicitor of the candidate this case were put into his hands, and he whom they favoured. This sum was found upon inquiry, that the statements secured by bond. Some question arose were founded in truth, he should not respecting the interest, and the point hesitate to put the case in the form of an having been referred to an arbitrator, he informationin the court of Chancery, in determined that it ought to be paid by the order to compel the corporation in question corporation. The whole sum, interest, &c. to refund the money which they had so was then charged as a mortgage on the improperly applied. corporation estates. A considerable time Mr. Spring Rice, after apologizing for afterwards, the party in the corporation his presumption in rising after the very with whom this proceeding originated, clear and able statement of his hon. friend having become weaker, a bill was filed in who had brought this subject under the the court of Chancery to set aside the consideration of the House, said he was mortgage. The right of the corporation desirous to show the hon. and learned to make the payment was discussed. The gentleman opposite, that he had fallen into hon. gentleman said, that lord Eldon had an inadvertent error. In the first place, declared that he could not take cognizance he wished to disembarrass the subject of a of such a case. By no means. What he great portion of the legal subtleties by said was, that he could not undertake to which it had been surrounded. It was a say that the original vote of 2,0001. was question which involved considerations of so obviously improper, as to constitute a a much larger and more important pature, breach of trust; and on that account, than the hon. and learned gentleman he could not deal with it. Instead, there seemed to imagine. If it were merely a a fore, of denying that he could take cogni- complaint from the town of Northampton zance of the

improper use of corporation that the corporation had, for their own funds, lord Eldon had laid down quite an benefit, or for any undue purpose, misopposite doctrine; namely, that if a breach applied their funds, it might be a question, of trust had been made out, he could whether the House ought to agree to a have dealt with the transaction. With motion for inquiry. He for one might be respect to the Limerick case, to which the disposed, in such a case, to acquiesce in hon. gentleman had referred, a select the doctrine laid down by the hon. and committee had been appointed to investi- learned gentleman, that, if the petitioners gate the misapplication of 8001. But the had a clear legal remedy, the House ought committee only reported the fact. It did not to exert its authority on the subject. not appear that any subsequent proceeding But, what was the actual complaint ? In had taken place; so that the case was no the older and better times of parliament, authority on the subject. With respect if it had been alleged that a corporate body to the transaction now under consideration, had misapplied their funds, for the purpose he had no hesitation in saying, that if it of procuring the return of a member to was such as had been described it was a thai House, he doubted whether an atclear and undoubted breach of trust; torney-general would have refused an inwhich would be a very fit subject for quiry on legal grounds, or have told the an information in the court of Chancery. complainants to go to a court of equity, He could not therefore concur in the in order to ascertain, not if the money of hon. gentleman's motion for submitting the corporation had gone to A or B, but it to the investigation of a committee. if it had been applied to influence the election of a member of the House of menced in this case in the court of ChanCommons; and that not merely as be- cery, was there a man living who could tween two individuals, but with regard to tell when there would be a judgment given the two great political parties into which in the case. Would an application to the the country was, and ever would be, di- court of Chancery produce the cheap and vided. The corporation of Northampton speedy justice to remedy or control such had entered into this crusade, not in de cases, and provide against their repetition? fence of their corporation interests, but was this the remedy which was so liberally simply in support of a ministerial candi- tendered by the attorney-general ? If a date for the borough of Northampton. private individual had a purse long enough This was not a question merely concern- to undertake a Chancery suit, the attoring the corporation of Northampton : it ney-general would be kind enough to lend affected the corporations of all England. his name to the proceedings. Was this Suppose the case brought before the court the mode of redressing a great public of Chancery, what was the utmost that abuse? He implored the House, as they could be expected ?-merely that the par- valued their own character and fame—nay, ties who had misapplied the money would as they wished to guard themselves from be obliged to refund it. This was not the the supposition, the shame, the reproach, duty of the representatives of the people. of sanctioning that abuse which was to The House had only one of two courses to buy a ministerial candidate, not to pass pursue- either by a bill, or by a standing over the offence so lightly. He hoped order or express declaration, that they view that the House would not cast their rights ed the proceeding of the corporation as an in- and privileges at the feet of the courts of fringement of their rights and privileges, and law, from which their ancestors had so of the rights of the electors of this country. often rescued them, and where those rights If corporations were allowed to apply their and privileges never could be trusted with funds to election purposes, what individual safety. would ever stand a contest? Whose pri- Sir George Robinson rose, merely for vate purse could compete with the funds of the purpose of supporting the motion of a whole corporation? In the Limerick case, his hon. friend and colleague. He did the misapplication of the corporate funds not consider this a fit case for a court of was to the extent of 8001. The fact came law. It ought to be taken up on constiout accidentally before an election com- tutional principles, and decided in that mittee, which merely reported that the House. He would only further state, that minutes should be printed. Two years the returning officer belonged to that body after, a select committee was appointed, who had supplied the money; and this of upon petition, which received evidence, itself implied such a partiality, that the selected documents, and produced a re- election could not have taken place under port. A bill was then brought in, which him with fairness. was referred to another committee. This Mr. Hudson Gurney said, that the hon. committee sat twenty-one days, counsel member for Limerick had so entirely dewere heard, and the bill at length passed. molished the speech of the attorney-geHis gallant friend looked at protection for neral, that he would not trouble the House the future, more than at punishment for at any length. This was not a case of the past, in bringing the subject before nice legal distinctions, as to the cognizance the House. Did the Attorney-general of what court the offence ought to be only mean to state what no attorney- submitted. It was a question of mere general would refuse to say, “ that if plain common sense. If the petition abuses of trust were made known to him, before the House stated the truth, the as attorney-general, he would allow his corporation had committed an open and

to be used in prosecuting the enormous malversation on the funds of offence.” Or did the learned gentleman's the community of Northampton, for which proposition amount to this—that he would they were trustees, in the misapplication proceed in this particular case?

of the common property to purposes which The Attorney General, across the table, brought them distinctly and clearly before -No.

the House.—He was one who thought the Mr. Spring Rice :--Then the learned system of open corporations, under which gentleman's proposition amounted to no- the inhabitants of large places elected their thing. Suppose proceedings were com- own magistrates, the very best that could


possibly be devised, or had ever subsisted, I could declare, that he was entirely indiffor their municipal government. But it ferent as to what the merits of the sitting was obvious, that its attendant evil was members might have been. To him, it was more or less of temptation to tamper with a consideration of the most complete inthe public property committed to their difference, whether the individual referred charge; and, whenever any corporation to belonged to the ministerial side or to had thus betrayed its trust, and applied that of the opposition. If the act, which the funds of the commonalty to improper formed the subject matter of the petition purposes, no occasion of repressing these could truly be considered a legitimate exmalversations should ever be lost. It was ercise of a right-if the support of the quite evident that the law here would candidate, who had been supported by afford no remedy. An appeal to the law corporate funds, was in itself a legal, a must be made at individual expense; and proper, and a constitutional act, it mattered the case would be defended at the expense nothing to parliament, or to him, wheof those very funds on which the fraud ther that gentleman sat on his side of had already been committed—the com- the House or on the other. If the corpomunity twice paying for having been once ration, or a majority of that body, were plundered.—There was one part of the of ministerial politics, who would queshon. member for Limerick's speech, which tion their right to support, by all lawhe had heard with great regret; namely, ful means, the candidate that agreed in his allusion to this money having been sentiment with them? He would ask, taken for the support of a ministerial what odium attached to ministerial memcandidate. This was mixing a party feel bers, or the support of ministerial caning in that which was any thing but a didates ? The question then before the party question. It was nothing to the House had nothing to do with party; and purpose, whether the candidate were on he was determined to view it without the the one side or the other. The case, as slightest reference to any consideration of stated, was one of misapplication of com- that nature. If the act were in itself mon funds to the election of members of legal, the particular object of it was a parliament, and he could not see how it matter of no moment to the decision of was possible that the House could abstain that House. But, it remained to be confrom instituting an inquiry on such an sidered, whether it was or was not a legal allegation.

and constitutional application of public Mr. Secretary Peel said, he much refunds. There appeared to him to arise a gretted that before he came down to the material distinction between some of the House, it had not been in his power to allegations contained in the petition which make himself more perfectly acquainted had been printed, and that which had last with the circumstances of this particular been presented to the House. Considercase. He had only been fortunate enough ing the subject as stated in the printed to hear the last two speeches, and to read petition, he conceived that the question in the votes of the House one of the peti- presented for the decision of the House, tions referred to. He could very sincerely was contained in a passage of the printed assure the House, that, in coming to a petition, which set forth, that certain chavote upon this subject, he would solely ritable funds intrusted to the corporation, exercise his own judgment, and decide, had been by them most improperly apwithout reference, in the slightest degree, plied, to forward election purposes. If to any party considerations. He had rea- that were a true allegation, then nothing son to regret further, that in the course of could be more obvious, than that the apwhat he understood his hon. and learned plication of the money was illegal, and friend near him to have said, some obser- his hon. and learned friend had most vations should have escaped, calculated fairly and judiciously said, that there exto excite prejudice, and interfere with an isted a legal remedy, or equitable one, and impartial decision. Agreeing, as he did that he was perfectly willing to lend them in the main, with what had fallen from the use of his name, in asserting that his hon. and learned friend, he the more right in the court of chancery. Nothing regretted being under the necessity of that he had heard could raise a doubt making this exception. It was an excep- in his mind, that if a corporation, being tion, however, which he owed to candour, the trustees of a charitable fund, are inand a sense of justice. For himself, hé duced, from any considerations of a por

« ForrigeFortsæt »