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EXTRACTS FROM A SPEECH
HOUSE OF COMMONS,
THE LOCAL COURT BILL,
APRIL 29th, 1830.
If it were asserted there was any country in which a man, in order to recover a debt of £6. or £7., must begin by expending £60. or £70., -where, at the outset, to use a common expression, he had to run the risk of throwing so much good money after bad,-it would at once be said, that whatever other benefits, or advantages that country enjoyed, at least it was not fortunate in its system of law. But, if it were added, that in addition to spending £60. or £70., a man must endure great difficulties, anxiety, and uncertainty, infinite bandying to and fro, and moving about from province to province, and from court to court, before he could obtain judgment, then our envy of the country where
such administration of the law and legal institutions existed, would be still further diminished. If to this information, it were added, that in the same country, after having spent £ 60. or £70., the adversary of the creditor would have the power of keeping all his property out of his way, so that, after all his expense, all his delay, and all his anxiety, it would still be doubtful whether he could obtain a single farthing of his debt; if, furthermore, it were stated, that in the same country, if the debtor were solvent and willing to pay what the law required from his hands, the creditor would receive, it is true, his original claim of £6. or £7., but not the whole £60. or £70. which he had expended in costs to recover it, by about £20.,-so that, on the balance, he would be some £ 13. or £ 14. out of pocket by success, over and above the amount of the debt which he recovered, after being exposed to a variety of plagues and the annoyance of these proceedings;-if we were told of such a case, would not the natural enquiry be “ whether it was possible that such a country existed ?” Sir, the individual to whom this strange information was given, if he supposed it possible that such a country existed, would at least pronounce it to be one of the most barbarous and unenlightened in the world. That it must be a poor country, he would think quite
obvious and equally obvious, that it must be of no commercial power—of no extent of capital -of no density of population, because those circumstances would necessarily produce, from hour to hour, transactions, involving important and valuable interests. Nevertheless, I need not remind the House-for every man who hears me, or does not hear me, must be aware (many to their cost) of the fact—that such a country, so unfortunately circumstanced, is no other than that in which I now speak-ENGLAND.
propose to add to the power of the Judge, the right of calling the parties, if they please, before him; that is, if one is desirous of it, and the other has no objection. That they should go before him—that it should be compulsory to receive his opinion—that he should act as Judge of conciliation, and endeavour to reconcile their differences. I will explain, in one moment, why I regard this measure as desirable, and by no means impracticable, and I can assure' the House, that the suggestions which I have offered, are founded strictly on practical experience. When a man goes into court, in many cases, no person is more likely to be led into error as to the probable termination of the cause, than the party interested. In almost all instances
he is more or less misled by the advice he receives. I do not say that gentlemen of the bar give opinions that an action is maintainable, when they know that it is not. God forbid! I believe that there is no set of men less apt to do so. I believe they are more apt to dissuade-to throw cold water upon law-and to give doubtful opinions and discouraging advice. I say this is the common course of the profession. I say that in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred it is so. I need hardly say, it has happened to all respectable men.
I need hardly say, when it happens not, a man is scarcely respectable. But great as my feeling is for the profession--strongly prepossessed as I am of its high honour, of its great integrity-of all those qualities which entitle it to respect—and much as I hope that the exceptions are rare--yet I will not say, that there are no exceptions, even in that profession to which I have the honour to belong.
I will not take upon myself to say, that it is an impossibility to find a man at the bar, who will give an opinion to encourage, when he ought not to encourage,--still less will I take upon myself to deny, that there are always to be found men, in the other branches of the profession, who will go to that man to get his opi
nion, and who, if they cannot get that opinion, will substitute their own for it; and tell their client, that he is sure to gain that which they ought to know, there is every probability he will lose. But this I do know-that every day we have men come before counsel, previous to going into court; a consultation is holden, and men lift up their hands, and throw up their eyes, and say, who could have advised such an action; and upon other occasions, on the part of the defendant; it is said,—“ how could you go on so long with it?” The reason is neither more nor less than this that no sooner have they read the case, than, without any further consultation together, each man comes into the Consulting-Room, with his mind made up, that they have not the shadow of a case, and the poor client is allowed to go into a court only to be ruined. This happens every day, and it happens often enough, to make one wish that it never happened at all. There are cases where the advice of the counsel is kept back from the client—where the opinion is obtained on a false statement of facts; and in all these cases, the man the most ignorant of the chance of success, or failure, is the unfortunate client--dragged into a court of justice. I do not say he is always dragged—he is sometimes coaxed, and they who ought to put him on his guard, mis