§ Sir Samuel Romilly
presented a Petition from certain inhabitants in the county of Glou- 26 cester, complaining of the difficulties which had been so disgracefully and so successfully thrown in the way of creditors in recovering small debts. He was satisfied that the evil was more generally to be traced to the interested and unprincipled interference of legal advisers, than to a want of principle upon the part of debtors generally; but never, until within a few days, had he learned that the heedlessness of the legislature had left open so wide a door to an abuse which operated completely as a fraud upon nine-tenths of creditors for small sums, where such abuse was resorted to. He had derived this information (an information which convinced him at once of the extent of the abuse), from a letter which came into his possession, in consequence of its having been directed generally to the persons confined for debt in the gaol of Gloucester, by an attorney, whose name he should not mention, and not having been post-paid, none of the prisoners felt disposed to expend as much money as was requisite to pay its postage, however anxious they might have been to ascertain its content. The primary object of the writer, was to obtain for himself the business, as agent to the prisoners for debt in that gaol. The letter enjoined such as were confined there to sue out an Habeas, and move themselves into the King's-bench, there advising them how to file sham and dilatory pleas, and upon proceeding to get judgment, to have the office at the Temple searched by their attorney, who, beforehand, should be armed with a writ of error to be filed, recommending them, however, in case they were desirous to be particularly troublesome, to make the writ of error returnable in parliament, the additional expense of which would cost the defendant not more than 1l. while the plaintiff would thereby be put to an expense of 100l.; that by these and similar proceedings of a dilatory nature, they might, at the moderate expense of 24l. 9s. put their several plaintiffs to an expense of 343l. Sir Samuel proceeded to descant on the evil of writs of error, and adverted to certain abuses which had been detected and remedied in appeal cases, suggesting that the same method of having two barristers to certify, before the writ was issued, would be the means of putting an end to the crying evil so loudly and so justly complained of.
§ The petition was read, and ordered to lie on the table.