« PredošláPokračovať »
in any thing by halves; and you, like them, do not always apportion the zeal of your exertions to the importance of your object. I am sure I have seen you write twenty letters about getting something done at a particular time, which you thought should be done, when
upon the least reflection you must certainly have seen that it did not signify many straws whether or not it was done at all, and not a single straw whether it was done one day or another. I hope you won't be angry at my mentioning this little peculiarity, when I acknowledge that you share it with the most useful and eminent of mankind."-Edinburgh Review, No. 137, p. 190.
After reading such passages, and being thoroughly convinced, moreover, that no man ever yet attained a high and difficult object without attaching what in one sense may be termed an undue importance to the means, we own we have no sympathy, and hardly patience, with that delicate dilettante class, who find it hard to apply their minds to the elaborate scrutiny of a labourer's dinner, dress, sleep, or timepiece, (each of which may form an important link in a chain of circumstantial evidence), or hesitate to descend to the level of the witness who comes to speak to such details. The only place where such fastidiousness can be deemed in character is in the mouth of the proud dull old baronet in Guy Mannering:
" Why, my good sir, (said Sir Robert Hazlewood,) you will understand me only to mean, that I am something deficient in the practical knowledge of the ordinary details of justice-business. I was indeed educated to the bar, and might boast perhaps at one time, that I had made some progress in the speculative and abstract, and abstruse doctrines of our municipal code ; but there is in the present day so little opportunity of a man of family and fortune rising to that eminence at the bar which is attained by adventurers who are as willing to plead for John a Nokes as for the first noble of the land, that I was really early disgusted with practice. The first case, indeed, which was laid on my table quite sickened me : it respected a bargain, sir, of tallow, between a butcher and a candle-maker ; and I found it was expected that I should grease my mouth, not only with their vulgar names, but with all the technical terms and phrases, and peculiar language of their dirty arts. Upon my honour, my good sir, I have never been able to bear the smell of a tallow candle since."
We have taken the liberty of thus shading down some of Mr. Serjt. Talfourd's valuable observations for two reasons; in the first place, as they were written nearly fourteen years ago, he himself might now be disposed to modify them; in the second place, his example may be safely set against his authority ; for he has shown that the highest order of poetical genius (and the poet's is the spirit of all others most likely to shrink away from the conflict) is not incompatible with profound legal learning, and that the most refined perception of the beautiful presents no insurmountable barrier to the striking development of working talent at the bar.
His article concludes with exquisite sketches of the Lords Erskine, Abinger and Brougham.
ART. II.-IMPORTANCE OF CHEAP POSTAGE TO THE LAW.! The First and Second Reports of the Select Committee on
Postage. Ordered to be printed by the House of Commons,
4th April and 1st August, 1838. The whole kingdom knows by this time that a Select Committee of the House of Commons was appointed last session to inquire into the effects of the present rates of postage, and to decide whether the startling novelty of an uniform penny postage could be substituted in their stead. The report of this committee was hardly agreed to, before the welcome tidings spread like wild-fire through the land, that an uniform penny postage, payable in advance, for all letters under half an ounce weight, was not only pronounced a thing feasible, but recommended for actual adoption, as soon as the general revenue could risk a temporary loss.
It would be foreign to our periodical to examine at any length the very remarkable evidence given to this committee ;- but it seems not inappropriate to show how far it appears from the evidence, that the legal profession, with its high purposes and objects, has been injuriously affected by the present system, or is likely to be benefitted by the
proposed change. Before doing so, however, we cannot refrain
i We have been favoured with a copy of a petition from the London Attorneys, which was numerously signed and presented in the last session, and from which wc take the following extracts:
“ Your Petitioners beg to assure your Honourable House, that a reduction of postage to the extent proposed would in law business alone be followed by a very from glancing at the disclosures which the evidence presents. It must be obvious that every class has an interest in considerable increase of correspondence through the Post-Office.
At present, writs, documents, and papers of small bulk, but exceeding in size and weight a single letter, are conveyed between London and the country, in prodigious numbers, by small coach parcels, the carriage of which, without exception, is less than double postage in the same case. But if postage were reduced to the small uni form rate proposed by Mr. Hill, the transmission by post of the writs, documents, and papers of the size described, would be much less expensive than the conveyance of them by coach parcels.
“ The increase of communications through the Post-Office, however, would chiefly take place in letters upon subjects of a personal and private nature, which now for the greater part are transmitted, free of expense, through the excessive exercise of the privilege of franking, and the abundant means of private convey. ance. And your Petitioners consider, therefore, that whilst the same amount of revenue would flow into the public Exchequer from the Post-Office as at present, the correspondence connected with trade, business, or professional pursuits, would be greatly relieved.
“Whilst the proposed reduction of postage would promote the prosperity of every branch of trade in the country, your Petitioners submit to your Honourable House, that it would be peculiarly beneficial to the attornies and solicitors of the United Kingdom.
“ Communications between professional men relating to business in which they are concerned, when they reside at any distance from each other, as is frequently the case, are necessarily made through the Post Office. This observation particularly applies to the communications which take place between country attornies and their agents in town; the transactions between whom constitute the larger portion of professional business. The present heavy charges for postage consequently are extremely burdensome to the profession. The sums annually paid on this account by attorneys amount to a considerable per centage upon their profits ; many practitioners in town and country paying from 801. to 1001, and upwards yearly for postage.
“ Your Petitioners beg to inform your Honourable House, that by the changes which have been introduced into the administration of the Law within the last few years, the profits of attorneys and solicitors have been very much reduced. At the same time no corresponding diminution has been made in the outlay they are put to in carrying on their business. Due attention has not been paid by the Legislature to the reduction of those expenses attending law business, from which neither the clients nor the profession derive any advantage or gain. Your petitioners lament that a contrary course has been pursued on many
occasions. On the first day of the present year, by an order of the Judges, many official fees were considerably increased, thereby making the conduct of business more expensive than before, whilst the profitable charges of attorneys are not proportionably raised.
" Your Petitioners beg to impress upon your Honourable House, that no profits or pecuniary advantages accrue, either directly or indirectly, to attorneys from the present high rates of postage. The profits attending professional eorrespondence would not be less than they now are, were postage reduced to the small uniform amount proposed. The present extra outlay for postage, therefore, is an unprofitable expenditure forced upon practitioners. And as every item in bills of costs not attended with profit to the profession is a tax upon law business prejudicial to its members, without being advantageous to the public,-since it tends to diminish
that which affects kindred and friends, commerce, literature, art, education, morals, religion,-as correspondence unquestionably does ; and every class without exception has uttered loud and deep condemnation of present postage rates. We have the richest merchants-Lord Ashburton, the chief partner of Messrs. Barings' ;-the richest bankers—Mr. Samuel Jones Loyd, for example, making common cause against dear postage, with clergymen, Jawyers, insurance companies, religious and scientific institutions, merchants and tradesmen of all sorts, and the whole of the poorer classes. Every body adduces cases within his own knowledge of the intolerable grievance and oppression of postage. Whilst my Lord Ashburton complains that he is charged twenty-three shillings for an American letter which does not cost the post-office for its agency as many farthings, instances beyond number are given, which prove the postage to be a complete bar to the correspondence of the labouring classes, removable only by the pawning of the scanty garments which cover them. “Sixpence,” said a member of the Society of Friends, “is the third part of a poor man's daily income; if a gentleman who had 10001. a year or 31. a day, had to pay one-third of his daily income, a sovereign, for a letter, how often would he write letters of friendship? Let a gentleman put that to himself, and then he will be able to see how a poor man cannot be able to pay 6d. for his letter.” Not less striking than the suppression of correspondence caused by high postage, is the
the amount of professional employment, to lower profits, and to increase the risk of such bills not being paid, your Petitioners contend, that by extra and unnecessary postage the pecuniary interests of the profession are materially injured.
“ Another mischievous consequence to the profession of the present heavy rate of postage is, that communications between practitioners residing at a distance from each other, (and for that reason all letters by post between country attorneys and their agents in town,) upon business they are engaged in, are as few as are consistent with its proper management, instead of being as frequent as is desirable for its comfortable and easy performance.
“ Your Petitioners therefore humbly submit to your Honourable House, that in the case of the attorneys and solicitors of the United Kingdom, the reduction of postage as proposed would be a benefit to them, to which they are justly entitled.
“ Your Petitioners therefore humbly pra your Honourable House to pass a measure for establishing a uniform rate of postage of 1d. for every half-ounce weight between all parts of the United Kingdom, in lieu of the present oppressive rates of postage, which injuriously affect the interests of your Petitioners, in common with those of the commercial and trading classes of the community.
“ And your Petitioners, &c."
evasion of postage itself. On a moderate computation, it is reckoned that for every letter conveyed by the post-office two are carried illegally. A perfect system of postage-smuggling is established between all the large towns,—where letters are delivered for one penny. Old women and children go round to the merchants and tradesmen and collect the letters for the smugglers, whose trade is so thriving that there is competition among them. Every parcel over the whole kingdom carries letters and defrauds the revenue. Messrs. Barings admit that they send two hundred letters every week in a box to Liverpool, to save postage. Four-fifths of the correspondence between Manchester and Liverpool are stated to be carried on by private hand, and the town-council of Glasgow submitted the following data, founded on facts, as shewing the extent of smuggling in their town alone.
3 to 1
18 1 A third
67 A fourth
8 1 A fifth
15 Mr. Peacock, the solicitor of the post-office, avows that it is beyond the power of the law to stop the practice, and this avowal is corroborated by the statement of an extensive bookseller, that people “ laugh at post-office prosecutions," and bid defiance to detection. We must no longer dwell on these disclosures, which touch the community at large, and which extend to numberless interesting points, but confine ourselves to the object of showing how far high postage interferes with the administration of justice. Our first example is its effect in bankruptcies. The following is the substance of the testimony of Mr. P. Johnson, an official assignee.
Other means for the transaction of business than the postoffice are resorted to by some of the official assignees, whether by all he cannot state. He selects some illustrations of the cause. He writes into the country to a debtor to an estate for 11. 16s., which the debtor places in a letter, and it comes charged with 3s. 6d. postage ; another pays 21. 3s. 9d. by a letter, and the charge is 6s. 6d.; another sends 17s. from
1 Ev. 5984, &c.