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it would be better not to have courts for the recovery of small debts; but as long as they do exist, the cheaper they are made, in my opinion, the better; the principle seems to me to be cheapness; my great objection to those courts, is the immense quantity of perjury they necessarily engender.
Your observations apply only to the southern provinces, and not to the northern?-I have said so, that is, when I speak from my own knowledge; a great deal (speaking from information) of the mischief of civil bills, I understand, does extend also to the northern districts, but I do not know it of my own knowledge; I know nothing of the mode of empannelling grand juries in the north, even from hearsay, if I may be allowed that phrase.
Are you acquainted with the manner in which justice has been administered by the magistrates throughout the south of Ireland?
-I think I am; it has made a very unfavourable impression upon my mind. The mode of administering the criminal law by the magistrates, has been very bad, and continues, though the petty sessions have given some improvement, to be, in my judgment, bad.
Can you state, generally, any practices which have prevailed, which have rendered the administration of justice such as you have described it to be ?-The administration of justice is divided into ministerial acts, which are preparatory to trials in criminal courts, and judicial acts, where the magistrates inflict penalties and decide cases. Now, in ministerial acts, there was a great flippancy in sending persons to trial upon informations brought in writing to the magistrates, and sworn to without due examination or caution, so that in the southern counties the difference was very great between the number of persons found in the calendar at such assizes, several of whom were months in gaol, and the number indicted ; and a very great disproportion between those indicted and those convicted; now, à vigilant and a paternal magistracy would certainly have prevented those cruel grievances.
Have abuses prevailed with regard to the manner in which summonses for attendance have been granted ?-Great abuses; the jurisdiction which has been extended with respect to tithes by an Act of Parliament of five or six years ago (I speak in round numbers) has been attended with very grievous consequences in many places; I know an instance, in which (it was one of many) peasants were summoned by two magistrates; the tithes being let by an absentee clergyman, who had two very large parishes, and only two or three Protestant inhabitants; he let them to an individual who did not think the people a bit the better for his being a Roman Catholic himself; I have known him to get summonses from two magistrates who resided nineteen miles from the farm, and the people went with their witnesses the nineteen miles; and
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as soon as it was found they had their witnesses, and were ready for the cause, the magistrates at once adjourned the court for a week; so that they had thirty-eight miles to travel, with their . witnesses, without effect.
Were there magistrates resident nearer than the nineteen miles? -Oh yes, many. Those two magistrates were certainly very singularly circumstanced, for one of them is in the depôt for transported convicts, and the other I saw discharged as an insolvent the other day, they would have harassed the people three or four weeks more, if I had not been in the country. · Is it not the case, that the party who sues for tithes before the magistrates, is empowered to choose the magistrates before whom he will bring the cause ?--Certainly.
And there is no option in the party complained against ? None in the world; as I remember the Act of Parliament, howa. ever, there are some exceptions. Magistrates, who are titheowners, are, I think, excluded; but then, if they do act, what is the remedy of the peasant? only an application to the court of King's Bench; it is quite idle to talk of that to an Irish peasant.
Are either of those magistrates, to whom you have referred, still in the commission ?-No.
How long have they ceased to be?-Perhaps three or four years.
Have any instances come to your knowledge, of abuses in issuing summonses ?-Oh, yes; summonses have been issued for very trivial matters. Favouritism subsists in the south, that is very little aggravated by any religious differences; but it is sometimes tinged with that."
Has the authority of magistrates been in any degree perverted, so as to turn it into a grievance in this respect ?-Yes; my opinion is, that the magistrates, taken all together, have not that feeling that men ought to have, who hold any species of judicial station; there is not the generous sentiment of abhorrence of wrong and oppression among the class of men who are magistrates in Ireland, which there ought to be. It is a convenient thing for a man to have a commission of the peace in his neighbourhood; he can make those he dislikes fear him, and he can favour his friends; a great deal of that prevails, and must necessarily prevail, in a state of society such as subsists in Ireland.
Can you mention any instances in which the judicial authorities of magistrates have been abused ?—The instance, I gave, was one in which judicial authority was abused; we have complaints professionally coming constantly before us, of the modes of inflicting fines for various offences; and we have reason to believe, the complaints are well founded, though it is almost impossible to procure redress for them.
What opinion prevails among the lower orders of the people, in respect of the administration of justice by the magistrates ? The lower class of the people conceive, that it is not the justice of the case that is to decide it before the magistrates, but the person who has most favour and interest; and the moment they have any thing to be decided before magistrates, they ransack the entire neighbourhood to get letters of recommendation to the magistrates.
Do they adopt any other means of influencing magistrates in their favour?-It is familiar in belief, and I have no doubt of it, that magistrates have received money and various articles : where they could not give money, eggs and butter, and fowls, and presents of various kinds.
Do they ever give free labour ?_Yes; and free labour where they can give nothing else; and immorality where females are interested; complaints of that description have been made, that they purchase favour in a mode which is not difficult to be understood.
What effect has the system, that has been recently introduced of bringing magistrates together at petit sessions, produced on the general administration of justice !-I think that it certainly has improved it among the magistrates at petit sessions, there being several; and it is likely, that there is at least even one of the better class, and he necessarily influences the conduct of the sessions ; but when they are disposed to act harshly at all, it protects them better to act in numbers than if one was to act alone; it has that drawback
What impression has this alteration made upon the opinion of the lower orders of the people ?—I do not think that as yet it has made a much more favourable impression; they conceive, that the questions are decided by the majority of votes, and they still canvass as they used to do ; it has not been in the south long enough in operation to make a favourable impression, at least to abolish and drive away the preconceived notions*.
* The following is taken from Major Wilcock's evidence, p. 109.
Do you consider that the magistrates (of the county of Limerick) were to be charged with a general negligence of their duties in the administering justice between the lower orders ?- I think there was a very great cry out, that justice was not administered generally.
Have you been told of any existing complaint ?-I have, I believe. Was there a complaint, with regard to the system of fees taken by magistrates ? -Yes; I did hear that some magistrates took fees, and took them, if I may be allowed the expression, in kind.
Will you explain what you mean by taking fees in kind ?-Getting their turf drawn home and other things.
- In what manner was this alteration effected by government, of inducing the magistrates to act in petty sessions ?--As far as my knowledge goes, the judges, on going out on the circuits, were spoken to, to recommend it in the various counties; and I know, in point of fact, the judges did so recommend, and repeated the recommendations. - To what extent did that measure of revising the magistracy go, which was lately adopted in respect of purifying the magistrácy ?
-It struck out some very bad men ; it left in several; and it was used occasionally, to deprive of the commission of the peace most excellent men, without any cause; it was peculiarly severe upon the Roman Catholic magistrates.
Mr. Garrett Nagle was a man of very respectable character, and of an old family ?-Yes, both ; but in the county of Cork, most of the Catholic magistrates were struck out, but some of them have since been restored.
Do you know any thing with respect to the effect of the exclusion of the Roman Catholics, from the direction of the bank of Ireland ?-Yes : for the last two-and-thirty years Roman Catholics have been eligible to the situation of bank directors, but not one of them has been elected, although an immense deal of bank stock belongs to the Catholics; in their fair proportion, it is impossible to say, that they ought not to have two or three of the bank directors always Catholics; it was injurious to the Catholic commercial men during the war; and in times of commercial speculation, I think the result has been highly beneficial to them, and accounts, in my mind, for the superior wealth of the Catholic commercial community in Dublin over the Protestant; they were thrown upon their own resources, and obliged to make fortunes by degrees, and such are the men who keep their property.
Any thing else ?-Assisting in planting their potatoes, and things of that kind.
Were those fees taken upon the discharge of magisterial duty, or upon any other occasion ?-I cannot take upon me to say what the agreement between the grantor and grantee was, but it was for some service, I should suppose, rendered by the magistrates.
Do you conceive that those presents were made for service rendered in the capacity of magistrate ?-I think they arose out of magisterial influence.
Were those magistrates middle men, or resident gentry ?—They were resident gentry; I think they possessed some property, but very much embarrassed.
The observations which you have made, apply to the time before the reform of the magistracy; before the introduction of petty sessions !-Certainly. .
Was there any feeling in the county, with respect to the participation of some magistrates, in illicit distillation, and in the system of fees ?—There certainly was; particularly in the western parts of the county of Limerick.
Did that belief, within your observation, tend to deprive the magistrates of the confidence of the people at large!--I think it did.
Was not there a difference of opinion, with respect to the effect of the Act of 1793, as to its effect on the charter, in order to procure the admission of Roman Catholics to the bank direction ?- There was; there were three opinions taken, two of them were unfavourable to the Catholics. "Mr. Ponsonby, who gave one of the opinions, was afterwards himself astonished at having given it; whether it is that we conceive ourselves better lawyers now, from attending more exclusively to the profession of the law, I cannot say; but no lawyer at present in Ireland, has the least doubt on the subject, that they were eligible all along.
By the Act of 1807 or 1808, when the bank charter was renewed, there is a clause saving all rights that existed under the former Act of 1793?--As I remember there is; I speak from recollection not recently refreshed ; if I recollect right, there was a clause brought in to empower Catholics to become bank directors, and that Sir Samuel Romilly declared in the House, that it was not necessary; I may be mistaken in that, but I understand it to be the universal opinion of the profession, and speaking of so humble an individual as myself, I have no doubt that Catholics are eligible.
But no Catholic has been, in fact, ever yet elected ?-No Catholic in fact has ever been elected.
Do you know whether, in the subordinate officers employed by the Bank, there is any instance of any Catholic being admitted to a clerkship, even in the bank ?-I understand there are six or seven instances, or from that to ten; but the thing in Ireland which is most grievous, is not perhaps the letter of the law that excludes the Catholics, but the spirit in which the letter is acted upon.
Do you know whether there are any other instances in which the Act of 1793 rendered the Catholics admissible to offices not immediately under the government, but in different departments, to which they have never been admitted ?-To franchises, such, for example, as the freedom of the city of Dublin; for the same period the Catholics have been admissible to the freedom of the city of Dublin, there has not, I believe, been a single instance of a Catholic obtaining that right; in general, the persons were too poor to enforce it. At my own expense, I found a man of the name of Cole, and I got a peremptory mandamus from the King's Bench about five years ago, but he died in a fortnight after ; and from that until the present year the matter rested, when some means were found to bring on the question again. We have obtained a mandamus. It is not returnable as yet; it will be returnable the next term. In a case in which the individual had been a Protestant, he would have been admitted at once, and it