Page images

judicature, by still further increasing the attractions of these Courts, Parliament had wisely determined that the salaries of their judges should be raised, but unfortunately had left a discretion in the Treasury of apportioning the additional sum granted, so that 1,5001., being the maximum, and 1,2001, the minimum, the selection was given of those to whom the addition was to be given, and even the amount of that addition in each case. The greatest, the most glaring, mistakes were committed in making this selection and apportionment. It professed to proceed upon the relative amount of the business done by the different Courts; but it did give the larger salary in some instances to the Courts which had the smaller number of suits. It took no account of the labour imposed by circuits, assigning the larger salary to judges who never stirred from home. Above all, it wholly disregarded the amount of labour in respect of the length of the trials, and the amount of responsibility in respect of the relative importance of the causes ; indeed, the test of the number of causes, or even of the number of days occupied, or even the combined number of days, of causes, and of miles travelled, would, though rigorously adhered to, be manifestly most inapplicable to the subject matter, because the qualities required for a judge do not at all depend upon such circumstances; and the introduction of such a rule would lead to remunerating judges differently in different Courts exercising the same jurisdiction. But while all men saw the absurdity as well as grievous injustice of the course pursued, the worst of its offences was, that it placed the judges who performed the greater part of the judicial business of the country in a state of dependence upon the Treasury, utterly repugnant to every principle, and which, as soon as it was mentioned, appeared to every one a thing not to be endured. Accordingly this was in terms stated both by Ministers of the Government and others in high legal stations. The Lord Chancellor and the Lord Chief Justice both pronounced it to be altogether intolerable that the Treasury should have the power of fixing and of changing the salaries of judicial functionaries, and the Government gave a pledge that this enormity should cease.

In what manner, then, does the new Bill redeem that pledge ?

[ocr errors]

No doubt it makes all the salaries equal, and fixes them by Act of Parliament, instead of Treasury minute ; and so far it removes the greatest part of the grievances. But it runs directly counter to the decision of Parliament, that such a remuneration should be given as might enable the Government to obtain the persons best qualified to discharge the important duties of the office : it in fact cuts down the salaries granted by Parliament. Parliament having said a certain sum shall be given in some cases, because it is fit that these functionaries shall be so remunerated, this Bill says that such a sum shall in no case whatever be given ; and the ground on which the reduction is made appears to be one on which every judicial salary in the country may at once be cut down. It is said that those learned and able persons who now receive the lesser salary would have originally accepted their appointments without the prospect of any increase. We believe that almost all of them have found the labour and the anxiety of the office much greater than they had expected, and that several able and learned men have in consequence declined the promotion. But we put that consideration entirely out of view, and, admitting the allegation to be true, we ask to which of the judicial places in this country the same observation does not apply? If the Chief Justices were reduced from 8,0001. to 7,0001., and the Lord Chancellor from 14,0001. to 12,0001., does any one doubt that the very same men who now adorn those exalted stations would have accepted their offices at the lower salary? But does any man doubt that, in looking for a person at the Bar to take a vacant County Court judgeship, the difference between the one salary and the other would have an effect of limiting the choice, -of narrowing the field of selection ?

But there is a further objection to the change which the Bill proposes should be made.

Those who have had the larger salary awarded to them continue to receive it. The inequality, the indignity so justly complained of, continues to exist. One set of judges are told that they are regarded as inferior to another. A judge who performs more business receives less remuneration. If a vacancy happens in one of those courts, all of which try the same number of cases, and of the same descrip

VOL. I. NO. I.


tion, and all of which are filled by judges having, in consequence, it is alleged, of that equality, the same salary, the new judge will receive a different salary from that of the others. It can hardly be pretended that this consideration will have no weight with the men whom it behoves the Government to promote,—the men best fitted for the office. We believe no one can be ignorant of the effect produced some years ago by the reduction of the salaries of the puisne judges from 5,5001. to 5,0001. Some of the best men at the Bar declined the office, because they could see no reason for the slight put upon them by being placed on a different footing from others. Such feelings are to be respected, not disregarded ; they indicate the delicate sense of honour which should be cherished in men called to exercise offices that require high and even sensitive feelings, as well as learning and ability, for duly discharging their duties.

We believe a greater error never was committed by any Government than ours will commit, if they persist in this measure of utterly false economy. The County Courts are in the greatest favour with the people, a favour rapidly increasing. They are, it is to be feared, in less favour with the legal profession, because they have considerably lessened the amount of business in the Superior Courts. But with some manifest and easily-effected improvements, they may not only be rendered still more advantageous to the people than they now are,--they may be made more beneficial to the different branches of the profession. We venture to hope that a due regard to their own credit with all parties may prevent the Government from persevering in their proposed scheme; but we feel assured, that should they disregard the friendly warnings which we believe they have received, they will find the public opinion too strong and too generally prevailing to be resisted.

We may add, that we are the more convinced of the formidable nature which the opposition would assume, by symptoms which we have observed as to the position which the Law Amendment Society are prepared to take up in the contest. The society is not an agitating body, and has generally held aloof from any conflict waged in Parliament. But the important share which it has had in extending the jurisdiction of the County Courts, and the great interest which its members generally are known to take in the success of those tribunals of the people, joined with the hints already thrown out in the Law Amendment Journal, induce us to believe that the society will exert all its influence, and perhaps in more than one way, to prevent the threatened reduction. That influence has always been considerable, and has been of late greatly extended by the improved organization and increased numbers of the society. A strenuous opposition inside the House, so strengthened outside of it, and in so good a cause, will not be faced by the Ministry, unless they are much more foolhardy than we take them to be.




THAT which perhaps most strikes the student of political

history, when either witnessing such events as the recent birth of the son of Napoleon III., or reading accounts of similar births in the last half-century in France, is the sameness of tone of all those who first receive the impression of the event, and are held, in complimenting the Head of the State upon it, to represent certain fractions of the nation, or, at any rate, certain portions of the governing or administrative body. They, in many cases, can scarcely be said to vary one from the other; and yet how different is each occasion! The same servility expresses itself in the same stereotyped form, however different may be the cause which calls it forth. Senates, parliaments, legislative chambers, councils of state,-all have recourse to the same flattering language, nay, almost to the identical words, to convey to the feet of the sovereign for the time being their assurances of a fidelity which has invariably failed, and their belief in a stability which has invariably been overthrown. Whatever may have happened to teach them the hard law of human vicissitudes,—dura lex indeed !—they apparently indulge in an uneradicable confidence in Fortune, and deal with Eternity as though they themselves had over it a compelling power. This is only to be explained by self-delusion or subserviency of spirit, carried (one or the other, according as either prompts) to a pitch that, in this country, and with the glorious development attained to by our free and national institutions, we find some difficulty in comprehending. Self-delusion, after all that has four times within the last fifty years—occurred in France, is scarcely an admissible hypothesis ; and there consequently remains, as the cause of all that we have so lately been called upon to observe, a natural subserviency of spirit, an easy habit of servility, derived, in fact, from a depth of scepticism upon every point (religious and moral, both), which we in England shall, to our infinite honour and credit, perhaps never be able thoroughly to appreciate. But if from the individuals required to chronicle their impressions (or what are supposed to be such) we turn to the one individual to whom their impressions are conveyed, we shall find his personality strongly marked in his words, and a species of judgment formed upon the value of what it is his office to reply to. Let us, as an example, take the speech made the other day by M. de Morny, as President of the Legislative Chamber, to the Emperor Napoleon III. upon the birth of his

Ignore altogether what had passed during his own lifetime,-forget the feeling of security with which he himself, as a sincere Orleanist, had been animated, eighteen years ago, upon the birth of the Comte de Paris,--that was what M. de Morny could not do; and yet it was, it would seem, absolutely indispensable to regard the future as made sure of; and so we have the phrase: “Undoubtedly, upon other occasions, hopes, in a measure similar, have been entertained, and not realized ; why, then, should those hopes which we nourish at this moment, to which we abandon ourselves with such effusion,—why should they inspire us with such confidence ?-For this reason, namely, that the two dangers which threatened the throne,-revolution in the interior and coalition abroad, -these, sire, have been reduced to nothing by you. Revolution ! - you have put it down by force; you have drawn it from its object by employment; you have calmed it by generosity. Coalition ! - you have reconciled foreign powers with France, because your armies have covered themselves with glory only in the cause of


« PreviousContinue »