§ Sir James Mackintosh
said, he had a petition to present from Mr. Serjeant Rough, late president of the court of justice of the united colony of Demerara and Essequibo, to which he earnestly desired the attention of the House. The petitioner's case was one of peculiar hardship, and if it should meet with no remedy, it was deeply to be deplored. He was a man who, for his learning, integrity, and abilities, had been promoted to the office of president of the Supreme Court of a very important colony. From that office he was suspended by the governor. Such suspension was afterwards pronounced illegal and un- 725 necessary, by his majesty in privy council, three years ago. Notwithstanding which decision, the petitioner and his family were reduced to the brink of ruin by the suspension. No blame whatsoever was attributed to the government, past or present, on account of the distressing situation to which the petitioner was reduced. On the contrary, effectual redress was anticipated from their power and inclination to do him justice. It was not his object now to criminate the governor of Demerara. He had not come there for the purpose of reviving controversies, or kindling animosities. He appeared as a suitor, not as an accuser. In 1816, Mr. Serjeant Rough was appointed to the dignified and difficult office, for which he was well qualified by his judicial attainments. The office was difficult, as it required a thorough knowledge of a very complicated system of jurisprudence. The Roman law was the chief foundation of colonial courts of justice, and an expert civilian only was fit to preside in them. Few lawyers in this country were competent to discharge the functions of such an office, however distinguished in other departments of the profession. From 1819 to 1821 various differences had arisen between the governor and the president, which were ascribed, by the Privy Council, to the ill-defined limits of their respective authorities. These misunderstandings he should pass over, as unnecessary to be discussed on this occasion. In October, 1821, the governor, it appeared, had suspended Mr. Rough from his official functions. If the suspension were just, his character must have irreparably suffered from so extreme a measure. It would have proved him incapable of the discharge of a public trust, and undeserving of public confidence. He naturally returned to this country to vindicate his professional character, which would have been utterly annihilated, if not openly purified. The peculiar hardship of the suspension was, that it occurred after an absence long enough to cut off all his professional connexions at home, and not sufficiently long to have enabled him to indemnify himself for such a pecuniary sacrifice. The affair had been now for three years negotiating in this country; and he was still suffering under all the grievous consequences of the suspension. When he returned, he made application at the office of the Colonial Secretary of 726 State. From his knowledge of the character of the individual to whom he had there applied, no doubt his case had been treated with fairness and liberality. He had recourse to the professional assistance of two of his private friends, who held a high rank in the estimation of the public, and who felt a personal respect and esteem for the petitioner. The persons alluded to were the present lord chancellor, then solicitor-general, and Mr. Denman. By their advice, he was induced to abstain from an action or indictment, against the deputy-governor, as it was deemed indiscreet to press proceedings of so harsh a nature. He then petitioned for a hearing before the king in Privy Council. The reputation and qualities of the distinguished persons who composed that tribunal were enough to ensure an attentive consideration to his case. The result was, that his reputation was cleared from all stain, and his suspension was declared an act of injustice. The right hon. gentleman then contended that Mr. Serjeant Rough had been prevented from pursuing his professional pursuits in endeavouring to obtain redress for the unjustifiable persecution to which he had been subjected. Under these circumstances, he was compelled to invade the moderate provision which had been set apart for his children. Their money was expended in the defence of their father's good name, which they considered the most valuable part of their inheritance. At the end of several years the petitioner was re-established in honour, but left without compensation. The petitioner desired that his case should be again brought under the review of ministers, in the hope that they would advise his majesty to appoint him to some judicial office in the colonies, which would be an act safe towards the public, and liberal and equitable towards the petitioner. It should not be forgotten, that the petitioner had been advised by the Colonial Department to forego his right of legal remedy, by which he might have obtained compensation. That was a circumstance of which Mr. Rough ought to have the benefit. The petitioner's case was deserving of serious consideration, since it was intimately connected with the administration of colonial justice; for if he were left without redress, those persons who were best fitted for exercising judicial functions in the colonies would be deterred from proceeding thither.
§ Mr. Wilmot Norton
said, the Privy Council did not decide that the suspension of the petitioner was illegal; but they said that, under all the circumstances of the case, they thought the lieutenant-governor was not justified in suspending him. The Privy Council added, that they saw cause to regret the indiscreet conduct pursued by Mr. Serjeant Rough. The object of the presentation of the petition was to procure the appointment of Mr. Serjeant Rough to some judicial situation in the colonies. Now, it ought to be known, that lord Bathurst had offered Mr. Rough the chief-justiceship of Dominica, which he refused on account of ill-health. The right hon. gentleman was wrong in supposing that the petitioner had been advised by the Colonial Department not to resort to legal proceedings. Mr. Rough was merely informed, that it would not be desirable to adopt both courses; namely, to bring an action, and to appeal to the Privy Council. Under these circumstances, Mr. Rough adopted the latter proceeding, and he received every assistance from the Colonial Department in bringing forward his case. Upon the whole, he thought the House must be of opinion that this was a case which ought to be left entirely to the discretion of the executive government.
Lord F. Gower
said, it was quite evident that an act might be legal, and yet come within the description given of the suspension of Mr. Rough by the Privy Council; namely, that it was not justified by absolute necessity.
§ Ordered to lie on the table.