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scheme than there are to that of Mr. Charles Buller, and more to recommend it, there are some material defects which will be found upon examination; and there is one part of Mr. O'Connell's view of the subject which deserves more consideration than it has received.
The Grenville Act, as it has been usually called, was essentially, and in almost every particular, a faulty plan; and it is impossible that Mr. Grenville can have regarded it as a final or complete measure. He probably, as so many others have found themselves obliged to do in our irregular Legislature, contented himself for the moment with getting something done to put a stop to pernicious proceedings, and hoped gradually to fashion and improve into a more perfect form what he had contrived to introduce as he best might. His death prevented this, and none have fulfilled his purposes. The principle which he said he kept in view was to constitute a jury; and his knowledge of law, and his respect and liking for it, may assure us that he did not design to run counter to its principles. Yet, from first to last, the Grenville Act is a series of anomalies. The body from which the committee or jury is to be taken is throughout infected with favour and affection. The committee-men, or jurors, instead of being taken, as a special jury is in the first instance, from the whole body of those who are liable to serve, are taken from those who choose, or who are urged, to attend. The petition, and other written proceedings which answer to the pleadings in law or equity, afford no sufficient means of separating questions of parliamentary law from questions of mere fact. Both law and fact, in a confused mass, or mess, go to the “jury.” The committee elect a chairman, as a jury does a foreman; and he has scarcely more authority. This jury, therefore, which has to determine both law and fact, has no judge to guide or to assist it. Upon every question of law or fact the decision is by the majority of votes. These decisions which, according to God's construction of human beings, must necessarily be various, are also, by a statute of the realm, made final. There is no tribunal of appeal to annul an erroneous decision, or to confirm a correct one. The unavoidable result has taken place, that, upon a great many points, there are opposite decisions, of nearly equal authority. At the close of these satisfactory proceedings before these well-constituted tribunals of justice, the supporter of a candidate, or the candidate himself, may chance to find that he is stigmatised for life with bribery and corruption, or with perjury, or subornation of perjury; and each principal party usually learns that he has several thousand pounds to pay — the member who has been, in the first instance, duly elected, no less than he who has been returned by those who had no right of voting. These costs, in some instances, are said to have exceeded a hundred thousand pounds. For the credit of British gentlemen, let this statement be closed with the observation, that it is impossible such a system could have been endured so long, if there had not been some qualities in those by whom it has been carried on, which, to a great extent, have redeemed it from the consequences of its original and essential faults. A general prevalence of a spirit and feelings of generosity and honour goes far to supply the absence or the defects of law. It is not of happy omen when its protection is more missed, or its imperfections are more noticed, than they were wont to be.
Those who may have it in contemplation to amend the faults of the Grenville-act, would do well to bear in mind - "
First, the all-important distinction between the division of questions of fact and questions of parliamentary law; and that, whilst the ultimate determination of the latter, as far as they concern itself, is inseparably connected with the joint tenure of the House of Commons of the sove
reignty of legislation, the trial of mere facts might well be left, in the first instance, to any sufficiently impartial jury.
Secondly, that in all trials there ought to be the means of separating, in a written form, questions of law from questions of fact; and that this would not require the technicalities of pleading at common law, or in equity.
Thirdly, that a majority of voices taken by ballot, from a body of which the majority has not been prepared, by habit or education, for the consideration or apprehension of legal propositions, is not a satisfactory mode of deciding legal questions, even in the first instance.
Fourthly, that where there are to be several tribunals of co-ordinate and equal authority, it is scarcely possible to constitute them so happily as that a court of appeal shall not be necessary to harmonise their decisions on questions of law.
Fifthly, that it is inconsistent with all the principles which it has professed to uphold for the election of its members, that the House of Commons itself should be the means of inflicting upon members, who have been duly elected, a vast expense, for the purpose either of holding or obtaining their seats.
PRINTED BY J. MOYES, CASTLE STREET, LEICESTER SQUARE,
MONDAY, 7th MAY, 1838.
“A mighty maze, but not without a plan.”
No. II. will be published on the First Monday in June.
SOLD BY JEFFERY AND SON, 4 PALL MALL; JAMES BIGG AND SON, 53 PARLIAMENT STREET ;
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