§ On the motion for recommitting this bill, Mr. H. Drummond moved an instruction to the committee that they have power to divide the bill. This was agreed to, and on the motion that the Speaker do leave the chair,
§ Lord A. Hamilton
declared his decided opposition to such a bill as the present being considered in any degree adequate to redress the abuses complained of by the inhabitants of the royal burghs of Scotland, and confirmed by the three reports of committees of that House. To call it a remedy for these admitted abuses, was a total misapplication of terms. No two things could be more opposite than the reports of the committees of that House and the bill of the learned lord. The bill referred only to the accounts of the burghs. Now, the regulation of the accounts did not constitute a tenth part of the admitted abuses in the administration of these burghs. It did not meet the paramount abuse of self-election, from which alone so many mischiefs originated. The learned lord was mistaken, if he thought such a measure would satisfy the petitioners. Since its introduction almost every royal burgh had petitioned against it. Not a solitary petition had been presented in its support. It was not in the nature of things, that with the feeling of burgh reform that existed in Scotland, such a bill could satisfy the just claims of the people.
The Lord Advocate
said, he considered the bill consistent with the report of the committee up stairs, and that it went directly to remedy the evils complained of. He would receive with attention any amendment which was calculated to remove the grievances complained of, but he would oppose himself to any violation of the chartered rights of the royal burghs.
§ Mr. J. P. Grant
denied that the bill was at all founded on the reports of the committees of that House. Those committees detailed a variety of abuses to which the present bill not even adverted. As to chartered rights, he knew of no rights, in virtue of which self-elected magistrates assumed the power to vote them- 1127 selves into office in perpetuity, and to exercise en arbitary disposition over the property of others, and even the return of members to that House.
§ Mr. Hume
denied that the bill afforded the smallest chance of relief. No effectual relief could be given, unless by a modification of the absurd and dangerous principle of self-election. The defect of this measure was, that it did not go to the root of the evil. Its remedies were mere palliatives: the great spring of all the mischief was left untouched, provisions were enacted which could be of no real use, and proceedings in the Exchequer were to be instituted against a corrupt magistrate, which might not terminate, before the parties had descended into their graves. A great deal had been said with regard to the sacredness of chartered rights. Under this name, malversation, and all the varieties of abuse, had too long enjoyed impunity. It was not possible to point out a more wasteful or unjustifiable expenditure than that of the Scotch burghs. To correct this, was the avowed purpose for which the bill was introduced. The chartered rights, held up as worthy of so much reverence, had been violated whenever it was deemed expedient. What he complained of was, that this measure went to perpetuate that root of all the evil and corruption which they deplored, and the existence of which was no where denied—the power of self-election. Against the continuance of such a power he protested, and he must declare himself grievously disappointed that the learned lord had not introduced a more efficient measure. The learned lord had neglected the opportunity of realizing a permanent good for his country, and establishing on a solid basis his own reputation. Since, however, there were parts of the bill which some of his friends conceived might be beneficial, he would not resist its farther progress, although he feared that the effect would be, to perpetuate the system of self-election, and doom the inhabitants of Scotch burghs to a continuance of the abuses set forth in their petitions.
§ Mr. W. Smith
could not but approve of that part of the measure by which legal proceedings might be commenced against a corrupt magistrate, and in the event of conviction a penalty of 500l. be imposed upon him. This would operate to remove a great deal of the temptation to do wrong, and he should not be sorry to see a similar provision extended to every part of the United Kingdom.
said, it could not be denied by any man, that the charters in question were originally granted for the benefit of the parties receiving them. The object of the present measure was, without trenching upon them, to remedy the abuses which had crept in, and become as it were established under the sanction of custom. It had been urged that these charters were in themselves injurious, and had been often violated on former occasions. To this proposition he never could assent. If the convention of Scotch burghs had ever interfered, it was an interference without authority. It was under these impressions that the committee had acted, in preparing the new system of regulation which had been submitted to the House.
argued against the system. He considered its origin as being a revolution, though made by a king. Its first institution was the act of a weak king, advised by an imbecile set of counsellors. He approved of that part of the bill which imposed fines in cases of corrupt practices.
The House then went into the committee, and, on the motion of Mr. H. Drummond, the clauses relative to the power of instituting an Exchequer process against corrupt magistrates were omitted, with the view of being made the subject of a separate enactment. Mr. J. P. Grant then moved an amendment, for the purpose of regulating the auditing of the accounts. Upon this the committee divided: Ayes; 35. Noes, 53. Mr. J. P. Grant also proposed a clause, that nothing contained in the bill should operate against the jurisdiction of the head courts. Upon this a division also took place: Ayes; 44. Noes, 71. The remaining clauses were agreed to, and the House resumed.