rose for the purpose of submitting a motion, founded upon a petition which had been presented to the House at an early period of the Session, praying for au alteration of the site of the courts of law. The object of the motion, with which he should conclude was, to appoint a select committee, for the purpose of considering the expediency of removing the courts of justice from their present site to the neighbourhood of the inns of court. He knew no set of gentlemen in the kingdom less accustomed to associate together for the purpose of attaining any object than the solicitors. For many years they had submitted to great inconvenience, arising out of the present state of things, and their dislike of change induced them to forbear calling for an alteration, which public convenience and justice long since required; and nothing but a sense of the overpowering inconvenience to which they were now subjected could at last have caused them to petition the House on the subject. It could not be denied, that the attorneys of London were a class of persons the best informed, and the most likely lo form a correct opinion on the subject that could be found, for their duties rendered their attendance at the courts of justice constantly necessary. They must be aware of the inconvenience or want of accommodation they experienced, and how far the situation of the courts was calculated to afford facilities for removing the present impediments to the progress of the business of their clients. He had heard it said, that the solicitors called for an alteration for their own convenience; undoubtedly that was the case, but it should be recollected, that the convenience of the solicitors involved the advantage of the suitors. The petitioners truly represented that the present site of the courts of law was at a great distance from what they called the legal quarter of the town—that the great mass of professional men were engaged in the neighbourhood of the inns of court—that many barristers practised in all the courts, and that their chambers were in the inns of court—that constant communications were going on between solicitors and barristers, and that, therefore, from the present situation of the courts of law—many of them being separated from each other, whilst it was necessary for the bar and the solicitors to attend to all of them—attorneys were subjected to great in- 1163 convenience, and the interests of their clients to considerable prejudice. When his attention was first directed to the subject, he had an impression adverse to the change suggested by the solicitors; but he must confess, that the more he had considered the subject, and the more he had attended to the facts brought under his notice, the more strongly was he induced to entertain the opinion that the reasons which were urged against the solicitors' proposition only required to be stated at large, in order that their futility might be apparent. It could not be denied, that if the site of the courts were to be now, for the first time, chosen, no one would dream of placing them at the remote quarter of the town at which they stood—a mile and a half distant from what might be called the legal quarter. In ancient times the courts of law used to accompany the monarch, and the present site of the courts was selected on account of its proximity to the palace of the Sovereign. At that remote period little inconvenience would result from the situation selected, because the pleadings were oral; now they were prepared for them in chambers in the Inns of Court. Formerly, likewise, almost all suits were nearly alike—the matter in dispute, generally, being connected with land; now, however, the great mass of causes were of a totally different character. A complete revolution had taken place in the courts of law and equity; and yet the old accommodation had been permitted to remain. It was extraordinary, that the present courts were constructed with the knowledge that they would be inefficient. Sir J. Soane prepared two plans, and the one upon which the courts were built was preferred by the Government, because it was cheaper to execute. The architect was afraid that his reputation would suffer in consequence, and actually petitioned the House not to allow the plan to be carried into effect. Since they were built, it had been necessary to find accommodation for the Courts of Review and Bankruptcy, and the former was installed in what had been used for a bed room; whilst the latter held its sittings in a lumber room, from which the lumber was removed to the House of Commons, and was the cause of the conflagration which destroyed the Houses of Parliament. In addition to the petition to which he had already referred, another had been presented from 1164 the most respectable merchants and bankers in the metropolis, complaining of the great inconvenience to which they were subjected by being compelled to attend upon trials at Westminster. In fact, it was not pretended, that the present she of the courts was advantageous in any respect, except from its proximity to the judicial council, the House of Lords, and the committees of the House of Commons; but the number of persons who were benefitted in that respect was perfectly insignificant compared with the great mass who were subjected to inconvenience from the great distance of the courts from the legal quarter of the town. The removal of the courts from Westminster had been objected to on the ground of old associations. The courts, it was said, were mixed up with many old associations connected with Westminster-hall; and their contiguity to the Houses of Parliament, had tended to encourage the idea, that they were, in some degree, connected with them. Now, he must say, that the attorneys were as likely to pay proper deference to those feelings as other persons. Taking them as a body, the attornies were generally Conservative; they respected prescription, and no class of men were more disposed to cling to old forms and habits; yet they would not permit an indulgence in those feelings to interfere with the due administration of justice. The attorneys had submitted a plan to Mr. Barry for the erection of new courts, and it was found that the centre of Lincoln's-inn-fields would afford every facility for that purpose. A splendid building could be erected in that space, which would afford, in addition to all the courts, a place for the preservation of the records, rooms for counsel, for witnesses, and for consultation on the ground-floor, so that the bar would never have occasion to leave the building in passing from one court to another; and, on another floor, would be a room for the Masters in Chancery, &c. There would remain an area of 100 yards around the building to be planted with shrubs and trees. It was proposed that the expense of executing this work should be defrayed from the suitors' fund of the Court of Chancery, and from the fee fund of the common law courts, of which a surplus of 20,000l. was annually paid into the consolidated fund. Thus the work would be executed without any addition to the public burdens. The 1165 hon. and learned Gentleman concluded by moving for the appointment of a committee to consider the expediency of erecting a building in the neighbourhood of the inns of courts for the sittings of the courts of law and equity, in lien of the present courts adjoining to Westminsterhall, with a view to the more speedy, convenient, and effectual administration of justice.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ COMPENSATION FOR SLAVES.Mr. R. Gordon moved for leave to bring in a bill to make further provision for facilitating and completing the distribution and payment of compensation for claims upon the abolition of slavery. The hon. Member said, that the commission appointed to decide upon these claims had discharged their duty very efficiently. They had decided upon 44,000 cases, of which 4,000 were litigated, and there had been only six appeals from their decisions, and in one case only had their decision been reversed. The commission had cost the country very little, and the lawyers had had nothing to do with it.
§ Motion agreed to. Bill brought in and read a first time.