addressed their Lordships with reluctance; but having the honour to hold the office of High Steward of Yarmouth, it was his duty to attend to the wishes of those who placed him there. He therefore presented a petition from the Mayor, Aldermen, and Magistrates of Great Yarmouth, praying for an inquiry into the recent Appointment of Magistrates in that borough. He had understood that last year the hon. and learned Gentleman, one of the Members for the borough of Yarmouth, had a 454 communication with the late Lord Chancellor, in which he represented to him that it was necessary to increase the number of magistrates in Yarmouth. The noble and learned Lord attended to the wish expressed to him, and intimated to the Mayor that he would appoint six new magistrates. This announcement caused great astonishment in the borough of Yarmouth. The town council assembled and resolved by a majority of 25 to 5, to present a memorial to the late Lord Chancellor against the proposed addition to the bench. They presented a memorial, which is embodied in the petition accordingly, which stated that the magistrates then on the bench were constant in their attendance, and were sufficiently numerous; that the borough had about 31,000 inhabitants now, thirty-one magistrates, and thirty-one policemen — being one magistrate to every 1,000 inhabitants—and one policeman to each magistrate, which appears ludicrous—that the bench represented every shade of political feeling; but that the six gentlemen proposed to be appointed were all of one political opinion. The Mayor of Yarmouth presented this memorial to the then Lord Chancellor and had a long interview with him, and a correspondence took place between them. The noble and learned Lord intimated that it was his intention to persist in the appointment of the six magistrates, and that he felt it his duty, contrary to his usual practice, to appoint the new magistrates all of one party. This made a great sensation in the borough of Yarmouth, and in consequence the town council assembled and unanimously determined to petition their Lordships on the subject. Their petition be now presented; and represented that the addition to the magistracy was not made because there was any deficiency in number, and not because the administration of justice was partially administered, but because the majority of the bench had not voted for the liberal candidate at the last election. He believed that the noble and learned Lord was acquainted with Yarmouth, and connected with the county of Norfolk. He could assure him that this transaction made a great sensation in the county and borough. The noble and learned Lord, amongst his various duties, had not time to read the local press, but he (Lord Sondes) wished he would refer back to some numbers of the Norwich Mercury, the oldest and most influential of the Liberal papers in that county, and see the remarks upon that 455 transaction. He must express his opinion, that if magistrates are to be made for party purposes, there must be an end to that great feature in the administration of justice in England by unpaid magistrates, and the country must expect stipendiary justices to be appointed throughout the kingdom.
§ LORD CRANWORTH
said, though he was not aware what the contents of this petition were, yet if it were for an inquiry into his conduct he would at once say that the more searching that inquiry was the more glad he should be. He thought it necessary that he should state shortly what the facts were, because he entirely concurred in the opinion of the noble Lord that the making the appointment of the magistrates subservient to any political or party purpose was a course of conduct which was more completely disgraceful than any other. He must state at the outset that he had no connection with Yarmouth. He was never there in his life,—at any rate not for forty years,— except once, and that was on a railway excursion, when he stayed about an hour, and he knew nothing of the place except that an old friend of his represented it a good many years ago. The way he came to make the appointment of the additional magistrates was this. On the first day of last Michaelmas term, on which it was usual for the Lord Chancellor to entertain the Judges and the Queen's Counsel, one of the Queen's Counsel represented to him that the state of the magistrates of Great Yarmouth was most unsatisfactory. He would not say from party motives or from whatever cause it was, but it so happened that all the magistrates, except three, were not only of one political party, but were violent partisans. The number of magistrates was eighteen; the noble Lord overstated the number. He did not like to speak of Whigs or Tories, but of these eighteen, fourteen were violent Tories, one was a neutral, and three were Liberals. He said he could not appoint magistrates on the ground of politics; that was not the ground on which he went in this matter; but his informant said, "I will bring before you the facts, and I think they will induce you to interfere." He also got a memorial from the three liberal magistrates, who stated that they were in an unpleasant predicament; that they had to act with persons who were opposed to them in politics; that they did not like to absent themselves, but that they were only three 456 against so many, and that the suspicion prevailed that justice was not impartially administered. Turning a deaf ear to these representations would have been an easy way to himself; but on further reflection he thought that was not a proper course, and that he was bound to sift the matter to the bottom, and see whether there was any truth in the statement that justice was not impartially administered, or that it was believed that it was not impartially administered. The course he took was this: Being unconnected with Yarmouth he wrote to a gentleman of the highest respectability in the county of Norfolk, with whom he was not even personally acquainted, and stated what had been represented to him, and begged him to give him his opinion. He got a courteous answer from his correspondent, who stated that he had nothing to do with Yarmouth himself, but that he thought he had a friend with whom he would communicate, who would give him an impartial opinion on the subject, In the course of a week he got a letter from that gentleman, saying he did not believe, from his knowledge of Yarmouth, that with the then bench of magistrates it would ever be believed in Yarmouth that justice was impartially administered. He returned that letter, and therefore he had not the means of showing what were the exact expressions, but that was the effect of it. He (Lord Cranworth) thought he could not ride off, and say he could not interfere on party grounds; but he thought himself bound to put the magistracy in a position in which justice should not only be impartially administered but should be known and felt to be so. He might mention, to show the state of things, that the only two brewers in the town were Conservative magistrates; that they had the greatest possible influence, and that nobody but a political friend of theirs could ever get a license for a public-house. He was perfectly aware it might be said that brewers could not act in the matter of licenses; but they were acting with the other magistrates, sitting with them nine days a month, and it was ridiculous to suppose that the influence of these persons did not continue during the licensing days. And, therefore, it was that he felt himself bound to interfere. He communicated with the mayor; he did not say to him "justice is partially administered in your borough," but he told him he was satisfied from the information he obtained 457 that it Was thought to be so, and he mentioned the circumstance about the licensing, and that at the last election, out of eighteen magistrates fourteen voted against the Liberal candidates, which satisfied him that the allegations were not without foundation, and he said to him, "Let there be no mistake. I will appoint additional magistrates; and I tell you honestly and freely I do so because I think there is an undue preponderance of one political party on the bench." He did not know whether this explanation would be satisfactory to their Lordships; but for himself, if he had the same thing to do over again, he would take exactly the same course; because the holder of the Great Seal was bound to do everything in his power to have the magistracy as free as possible from party and political bias. Unfortunately, in the appointment of borough magistrates the holder of the Great Seal had very little, if any, guide. In the appointment of county magistrates he had the guide of the Lord Lieutenant, and though it was said that Lords Lieutenant acted from political motives, from his experience he did not think they did. But with regard to borough magistrates, there was nothing whatever to guide the Lord Chancellor in his appointments. In his appointment of borough magistrates he endeavoured to keep the two parties equal on the bench, and it was on that principle that in the appointment of magistrates at Yarmouth he appointed them all on one side. If an inquiry were instituted it should have his entire concurrence; and if the noble Lord moved for the appointment of a Committee he would second it.
§ LORD SONDES, in reply, said, he regretted he had made a mistake in supposing the noble Lord was acquainted with Yarmouth; he believed that at the last election twelve magistrates voted fur the Conservative candidate and ten for the Liberal. He did not wish to contend further with the noble and learned Lord, and left the case in the hands of their Lordships.
§ Petition to he on the table.