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when Sir R. Collier made a statement explaining the leading provisions which it would contain. Having reviewed the failure of former measures, he said the main object should be to collect and distribute the estate of a bankrupt as fairly, cheaply, and speedily as possible. In the first place he proposed—but by a separate Billto abolish imprisonment for debt, though the power possessed by the county courts would be still continued, placed, however, under stringent regulations. The main Bill, which made a clean sweep of the present system, would to a great extent be based on the Scotch system. When a man had been adjudicated a bankrupt his creditors would be summoned together, and there would be a preliminary proof of debts to determine the right of voting. The creditors would then have three courses—to accept a composition, to agree to a deed of arrangement, or to proceed in bankruptcy. If they chose the latter, they would appoint a trustee—not an official of the court, but any one they pleased; they would also nominate inspectors from their own body, the accounts would be audited by an official auditor, and the whole operation would be conducted under the superintendence of the court. A debtor would not be allowed to make himself a bankrupt, and after his release his subsequently acquired property would be liable for his debts for six years, unless he had paid a dividend of 108. in the pound. Five-sixths, however, of his creditors would have power to release him. Criminal offences in bankruptcy would be sent to the ordinary criminal courts, including quarter sessions and magistrates, and the stringency of the criminal law against fraudulent debtors would be increased. The administration of the bankruptcy law would be entrusted in the country to the County Court Judges, the present jurisdiction of the Bankruptcy Commissioners being retained until they died off ; and in London one of the judges of the superior courts would be constituted Chief Judge in Bankruptcy, with power to make rules and regulations, and in certain cases to summon a jury. Appeals would go to the court from which the judge came, and in a few instances to the House of Lords. The funds of the court would suffice to pay all the necessary compensations, and the Bill—though only half as long as that of last year—would be a consolidating statute.

The reception of the Bill by members representing commercial interests was favourable. Mr. Jessel, however, a leading counsel in the Equity Courts, made some critical observations upon its provisions. Leave was given to bring in the Bill, and also another which accompanied it, having relation to the same subject-matter, the abolition of imprisonment for debt.

On the second reading being moved, Mr. Jessel again stated his views on the subject, and laid down three main requisites for a good system of bankruptcy law—that it should facilitate arrangements between creditors and honest debtors who could not pay their debts, should secure the fair division of a debtor's property among his creditors, and the protection of the after-acquired property of a


debtor. Under the first head he complained that the majority of creditors necessary for an agreement was increased from threefourths to five-sixths, and he held it to be a shortcoming in the Bill that it failed to exclude persons who were not bona fide creditors from voting, and that it was the debtor, and not the creditors, who drew up the agreement. He was strongly opposed to relieving a debtor's after-acquired property from liability for his debts, the only effect of which would be to allow unscrupulous traders to speculate at the expense of others. Mr. Jessel insisted on the necessity of further changes in the mode of distributing the assets of deceased insolvents, giving some instances from his own practice of the hardships and inequalities of the present system.

Mr. H. Gregory, who professed to represent the opinion of the body of solicitors, approved the principle of giving creditors the management of insolvent estates, but objected to the creation of a special legal tribunal. He criticized the language of the Bill as being too limited in respect to partnerships and the definition of traders; he thought, also, that greater facilities ought to be given for the inception of bankruptcy.

Many members conversant with commercial subjects expressed approval of the principle of the Bill, among whom were Mr. Samuel Morley, Mr. Alderman Lusk, Mr. Anderson, and others, and of the legal members, Mr. Serjeant Simon and Mr. S. Hill were also favourable ; other members expressed doubt or dissatisfaction as to particular provisions.

Mr. Peek complained that the arrangement clauses were vague; that there was no provision for taking estates out of bankruptcy; and that there were no repealing clauses. He went so far as to suggest that the Bill should be withdrawn, and another, not so much needing amendment, brought in.

The Attorney-General avowed his readiness to give full consideration to all reasonable objections or suggestions of amendment.

The Bill was minutely discussed in the Committee, which was occupied for several days in considering the numerous clauses contained in it, and many amendments were made, but none that involved material departure from the original scheme.

The Lord Chancellor moved the second reading on the 8th July, and explained its principal provisions. He justified the introduction of the Bill in the House of Commons rather than in that House. The subject of Bankruptcy Law had been so often discussed that he need not go farther back than 1821 in his narrative of legislation on it. He pointed out the novelties and defects of the previous Acts. In preparing the present Bill he had found a general desire to leave--subject to protection of the smaller against the larger creditors, and to the creation of sufficient supervision in getting in the assets-as much power as possible to the body of creditors to manage their own affairs. To secure the assets; to encourage the debtor to declare himself insolvent as early as possible; to give the initiatory power of putting the Court in motion to the creditors and

not to the debtor; to take away from the secured creditors the right to vote, except in respect of the amount for which they were not secured ; to authorize interference of the Court in defence of the minority dissenting properly from an arrangement deed ; and, in accordance generally with the Scotch system, to get rid of the various officials whose employment now cost the estate so much, leaving the realization of the assets to a trustee appointed by the creditors themselves, these were, the Lord Chancellor explained, the chief features of the Bill. The object was to distribute the assets, not to punish the bankrupt. Justice, however, to the creditors against the bankrupt had been consulted by empowering the former, under certain circumstances, to claim payment of their debts out of the bankrupt's future assets. He justified the necessity for speedy legislation on bankruptcy by reference to the present scandalous results of the Bankruptcy Law, and he gave some account of the constitution of the Courts to which the administration of the law was to be confided, intimating his concurrence in the desire to appoint Mr. Commissioner Bacon the first Chief Judge. On the question of imprisonment for debt, the subject of the companion Bill, the Government, he said, had felt there ought not to be one law for the rich and one for the poor, and, as there was almost unanimity on the part of the County Court Judges in favour of retaining the imprisoning powers of those Courts, it had appeared necessary to confer a similar jurisdiction in

a regard to the higher class of debts.

Lord Cairns expressed his entire concurrence in all the leading principles of the Bill, convinced as he was that the creditors should have the maximum of independent power of dealing with the estate, and the court the least power of interference with them. But he found fault with the introduction of the Bill into the other house first, which must at this late period preclude any thing like careful revision by the Lords. He passed a

warm panegyric on the merits of Mr. Commissioner Bacon. No common law judge could exceed, or indeed equal, that gentleman in fitness for the post of Chief Judge; but he thought it must have been an oversight that Mr. Bacon was left by the Bill to discharge the duties of chief judge with no higher salary than his fellow-commissioners would take with them into retirement.

Lord Romilly approved of the large powers given by the Bill to the Lord Chancellor and Chief Judge to frame rules. He made also some remarks on the subject of imprisonment for debt.

The Bill was read a second time, and was then referred, together with the Imprisonment for Debt Bill, to a Select Committee. After which, the two measures in a slightly altered shape received the Royal Assent.

The proceedings of the House of Lords in regard to another very important measure of the Session, the Habitual Criminals Bill, which was introduced in that House, have been stated in our first chapter. A long interval, occupied mainly with the Irish Church


measure, ensued before the House of Commons found time to take this Bill into consideration. The time at length arrived, but not until the first week in August, when the Government found an opportunity to bring it forward, and Mr. Bruce, the Home Secretary, then made his statement in justification of a measure which he admitted to be of a novel and stringent character. In the outset he disclaimed the idea that it was introduced on account of any alarming increase in crime, because during the last 30 years crime had diminished, and for the last 10 years had been stationary, owing to various causes, such as emigration, education, and the effect of our prison legislation. But during the year 1868 there had been an increase of 1430 in the convictions, of which more than 1100 were for burglaries and violent crimes. This increase he traced chiefly to the operation of the changes made by the Act of 1864, and the aversion of the judges to inflict the long sentences of penal servitude, for which cause a large number of criminals had been released during the year. As one result of this in the metropolis alone 836 prisoners were now annually sentenced to short periods of imprisonment who before 1864 would have been sentenced to penal servitude, and when released would have been under the supervision of the police. It became necessary, therefore, to supplement the legislation of 1864 by further provisions for more complete supervision and identification by means of registration of habitual criminals. The leading idea of the Bill was to give every facility and encouragement for the reformation of reclaimable criminals, but to “hunt down” the irreclaimable and incurable class, which amounted to 40 per cent. of the whole. This would be done by depriving them of the usual presumption of innocence, and placing on them the onus of proving that they were living honestly. Persons once convicted would be liable to the supervision of the police only for the term of their sentence; to a second conviction would be affixed the further condition of police supervision for seven years after the sentence; and in the case of a third conviction for felony the judges would be bound to pronounce a sentence of not less than seven years' penal servitude, accompanied by police surveillance for life. To this last proposal Mr. Bruce anticipated the most objection, and he justified it at length, relying much on the good effects on the criminals themselves of the modified supervision under the ticket-of-leave system.

Mr. C. Adderley, whilst admitting the necessity of applying some novel principle to the evil, doubted the wisdom of the provisions relating to thrice-convicted criminals, as applying the deterrent principle too stringently. He objected, too, to entrusting the work of supervision to the police, who were not fitted for it, and proposed to hand it over to the Discharged Prisoners' Aid Societies throughout the kingdom, who had already done much towards the reclamation of criminals at a trifling cost. Mr. Hardy, reserving discussion for the Committee, gave a general

a support to the Bill, and pointed out that there was nothing novel in its principles. Police supervision was already applied to the ticket

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of-leave holders, and in some trades in the north of England, dealing in “waste,” for instance, the general presumption of innocence was reversed. As to Mr. Adderley's suggestion, there was this objection to it, that the agency did not exist all over the country.

Mr. Newdegate held the Bill to be a departure from constitutional legislation, and predicted that it would alienate the people still more from the law and from its administrators.

Mr. T. Chambers also regarded it as a violent departure from former criminal legislation, and uncalled for by the state of crime, which was diminishing.

Mr. Henley took particular exception to Mr. Bruce's expression, “hunt down,” and feared that the means employed would drive many curable criminals into the irreclaimable class. He was also averse to the surveillance clauses, which, among other things, would ruin the efficiency of the police for the repression of crime; and the stringency of the clause making a sentence of seven years' penal servitude imperative on a third conviction, he emphatically condemned.

The Bill passed through the House with certain amendments, the most important of which was the omission of the clause last referred to.

The important subject of Trades Unions, respecting which the Royal Commissioners made their report to Parliament early in the present year, was brought under the notice of the House of Commons by Mr. Thomas Hughes in an able speech upon introducing a Bill of which he had taken charge, for amending the laws affecting those societies. The discussion which took place on this occasion manifested on both sides of the House a disposition to relax to some extent the Combination Laws in favour of the Unions, and to relieve them from disabilities as to holding and recovering property to which they were subject. Mr. Bruce, on the part of the Government, admitted the validity of their claim to consideration in these respects, but declared the inability of the Government to devote during the present Session the requisite time and attention to the settlement of the subject, or to carry a Bill through Parliament. He promised that the matter should be taken up with a view to legislation another year, and in the meantime undertook to bring in a Bill by which the protection now afforded to Friendly Societies for the security of their funds, and the remedies which the law gave to the latter, should be provisionally extended to the Trades Unions. A Bill for this purpose was accordingly brought in, and was passed with general concurrence.

It is worthy of notice that a step was taken this year towards the recognition of a claim which has of late been strongly urged by an advanced school of Liberal politicians—the concession of political franchises to the female sex. In a Bill making provision respecting municipal elections, Mr. Jacob Bright procured the insertion of a clause whereby the franchise at such elections was extended to women.

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