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CHAPTER II.

THE INDIAN MUTINY,

It was generally hoped that the negotiations which had been opened at the commencement of 1856 would be followed by a speedy restoration of peace; and this hope was strengthened by the manner in which they were referred to in the Queen's speech at the opening of parliament on the 31st of January. That speech did not hold out any prospect that the legislative activity of the session would be greater than that of those which had preceded it now for some years. It recommended to the attention of parliament the improvement of the law of partnership, of the laws relating to shipping-dues, and the question of law reform; all of them subjects little calculated to excite a strong feeling either in the legislature or the country. The House of Lords at the commencement of the session had undergone perhaps a greater change in its personnel than at the commencement of any previous session for many years past. Several peers had died since the last meeting of parliament, and consequently an unusually large number took their seats for the first time at the commencement of the session. But a new peerage had been conferred during the parliamentary vacation which attracted much more interest than all those which had been obtained by inheritance. Sir James Parke, lately one of the judges of the Court of Exchequer, had been raised to the peerage by the title of Baron Wensleydale ; but the patent that conferred the peerage on him contained the unusual recital that his barony was to be held for the term of his natural life.' This creation was an attempt to revive a right which had been so long in abeyance that it could not be shown ever to have been exercised by the crown since the reign of Richard II. The reason assigned for the revival of this long-dormant right, which was to

1856.)

LIFE-PEERAGES.

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increase the number of the law lords by whom appeals were heard, and who in fact constituted the tribunal of appeal in the last resort, which in theory was composed of the whole House of Lords. The number of law lords was too small, and many of them were superannuated, so that there was often difficulty in obtaining a sufficient attendance ;

and even when they did attend the appeal frequently was from a more competent to a less competent court. There could also be no doubt that a person more proper

than Sir James Parke to fill the office of judge of appeal in the last resort could not have been selected. He was an able lawyer, a profound scholar, a very acute and experienced judge, a man of dignified appearance and high character, and one who inspired confidence in men of all parties. As his only child was a daughter, the non-hereditary character of his peerage was to him personally a matter of little moment; but this circumstance made it all the more evident that the appointment was made by the government for the purpose of establishing a precedent; and it was naturally regarded with great jealousy by many peers, who suspected that if the attempt succeeded in this instance, the government would try to strengthen their party in the House, and perhaps even to change their minority into a majority, by the creation of a large number of life-peers; a proceeding calculated to impair the dignity and importance of the House, and to which many of the supporters of the government entertained as strong an objection as the Tories themselves. They feared that if this claim were once admitted, the hereditary peerage would be gradually transformed into a life-senate, and that in the end the example which had been set in France twenty years before would be followed in England, and the peerage become tenable only during the natural life of its holder. There was, therefore, a very strong feeling in thə honse against the proposed innovation; and Lord Lyndhurst, who was just eighty-eight years old, came forward and put himself at the head of the opposition to it. The ministers, and those who supported them in the step they had taken, argued that as there was already in the House a bench of bishops holding their seats for life, so too there might very conveniently be a bench of lawyers holding their seats on the same condition. They also

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urged that if, on the one hand, there was a danger that the precedent set in the case of Lord Wensleydale should be followed too frequently, there was, on the other hand, at least an equal danger that, in attemptirg to keep up the appellate jurisdiction of the House by the appointment of a sufficient number of hereditary peers, many comparatively poor members might be introduced into the House, and detract from the weight and influence it possessed in virtue of the large territorial estates owned by most of its members. It was also urged by the opposition, that if the crown could revive a right, which had slept for so many centuries, it might revive other rights that had been dormant for a much shorter period—that, for instance, it might appoint members of the House of Commons, and thus destroy the constitution as it now existed. It was also asked: 'If the crown can, by its independent and unsupported action, reform the House of Lords, why should it not also have the power to reform the House of Commons, without the concurrence of the other branches of the legislature?' These reasons induced not only Lord Lyndhurst and the men who usually acted with him to oppose the introduction of life-peers, but also many of those who usually gave a warm and energetic support to the government, foremost among whom was Lord Campbell. Three great legal authorities who seldom agreed on any point were united in strenuous opposition to this change-Lords Lyndhurst, Brougham, and Campbell. The lord chancellor, on the other hand, zealously supported it; in fact, he was probably the author of the proposal, and the government did their best to justify the step they had taken. The ancient original patents, discoloured and almost illegible, of Guiscard d'Aigle, created Earl of Huntingdon, and of De Vere Earl of Oxford, created successively Marquis and Duke of Dublin in the reign of Richard II., were produced and read to the House in the original Latin. After much discussion, and the proposal of a great number of resolutions, the government yielded, and conferred on Sir James Parke a patent of peerage drawn up in the usual form. This attempt, however, had the effect of calling attention to the unsatisfactory manner in which the appellate jurisdiction of the House was exercised, and produced many

1856.]

THE PURCHASE SYSTEM.

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suggestions for its improvement; of those the one which obtained the greatest attention was one made by Lord Derby, who recommended that the judges should be allowed to speak and vote on judicial matters, and that the vice-chancellors and the equity judges should be included, and that certain of the lords of session should be summoned in cases of Scotch appeals. He proposed the appointment of a committee, to which Lord Granville, on the part of the government, assented; but he suggested that certain words should be added to the motion, in order to enlarge the scope of the inquiry which the committee was to make, and to include in it other questions to which the Wensleydale peerage had given rise.

The attention of the House of Commons was again called to the purchase system by Sir De Lacy Evans, who proposed a motion for the appointment of a select committee to examine evidence and report to the House on the expediency of abolishing the system of sale and purchase in the army.' The motion was resisted on the part of the government by Mr. F. Peel, on the ground that the present system had been in existence for a hundred and fifty years, and had so worked itself into the constitution of the army, that it could not be changed without great difficulty, and a danger of producing more serious evils than those which were attributed to the system as it then existed. He also urged that the proposed change would cost the country at least six or seven millions of money; a sum which it would be very inconvenient to add to the heavy debt which had been incurred during the Russian war. Ultimately Sir De Lacy Evans was induced to withdraw his motion, on a promise given by Lord Palmerston that the government would issue a mixed commission to inquire into the whole subject.

The treaty of peace was signed at Paris on Sunday the 30th of March, though, as the ratifications were not exchanged, the conditions on which it was concluded were not made public. The event itself was, however, proclaimed, with the usual formalities by the Lord Mayor, on the day following, at ten in the morning, from the front of the Mansion House and at the Royal Exchange. The rour of the Tower guns and of cannon placed in St. James's Park

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made the joyful tidings known through the metropolis, and was immediately followed by the ringing of the bells of the different churches, and other tokens of rejoicing.

But while every steeple of the city was sending forth its merry music, a frightful tragedy was being enacted in front of Newgate prison. There a man named Bousfield was to be executed for the murder of his wife and three of his children under circumstances of a very aggravated character. He was led on to the scaffold in such a state of seeming weakness as to appear to be barely able to support himself; but scarcely had the deep thud of the fall. ing drop been heard when the horror-stricken crowd of spectators shrieked out, 'He's up again!' And so indeed he was. By a tremendous and convulsive effort he had flung his feet on to the edge of the aperture through which he had fallen, and was making strong efforts to raise his pinioned arms to his neck. He was at once pushed from his resting place by one of the assistants, but sprang upon it a second and a third time; and the executioner was obliged to hold off the body of the unhappy man till he ceased to live, in order to prevent a fourth repetition of his attempt to save his life. This dreadful scene produced a profound impression throughout the country. The advo. cates of the abolition of capital punishment dwelt on the horror of this dreadful exhibition. Others appealed to it as an argument in favour of executing criminals within the precincts of the prison; while others recommended the adoption of a mode of execution calculated to prevent the recurrence of such scenes and to shorten the

agony of the criminal. But the public attention was speedily diverted from these topics by the interest which the peace excited, and by the eclipsing horror of one of the most atrocious deeds of darkness that has ever been committed in this or any other country.

In every age the crime of the poisoner has justly been regarded with an intense and peculiar detestation, but that detestation is aggravated when the murderer is one that approaches his victim with professions of friendship; and the intensity of the abhorrence with which the criminal and his crime are regarded is still farther intensified when he abuses the confidence placed in him as a medical man, and while pretending to give a healing draught administers a

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