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as in houses of correction. I may presume, that even this solitude has been relieved by congregating them with their fellow-prisoners at the morning chapel, and on their evening parade: this practice, although it may be usefully applied in special cases, I am not at present disposed to admit into the general rules of discipline. For what time do you think it might be allowed 2–The effect of solitude depends on the character of the patient; but generally I should say, not more than a month, without some occupation of mind or body. I beg to add, that the employment of the prisoners has principally been on manufactures on account of the county, by purchasing the raw material and abiding by the risk of sale of the manufactured goods. The late improvements in machinery have so diminished, or rather so annihilated the objects of work by hand, that the power of supporting a system ..]" hard labour in prison to be productive of emolument, is entirely out of the question. The principle, therefore, of this part of our #. cipline is, rather to give employment than to punish by hard labour, as intended by former laws; by preventing solitude from pressing too severely on the mind; by accustoming prisoners to find re
lief and gratification in employ-
ment; and thus to dispose them to habits of industry; and finally, by providing a variety of useful trades and adapting them to the respective dispositions of prisoners, to enable them to maintain themselves on their return to society; for these several purposes the employment of pri.
soners in a penitentiary is essential, but subservient to the great purpose of reformation by secluSIOrl. ... What share of the earnings are the prisoners allowed?—They are not allowed any money-share of earnings in the penitentiary-house; the prisoners are furnished by the public with every thing conducive to their health, both as to food and clothing: the use of other extraneous supply is forbidden by the law, and would, in my opinion, be injurious in practice. Do you think that some share of the profits would not operate as an encouragement to work?— It has not appeared that a disposition to work in this penitentiary has required any encouragement: it is a prison of punishment for great offences; and I think, that having provided for the offenders confined in it a supply far beyond the necessary, and even to comfort, in food, raiment, bedding and fire, it is no more than a bare justice to the public that the amount of their earnings should be carried to the account of their maintenance. Have you had an opportunity during the time you have mentioned, to observe the effect produced by this mode of punishment?—Although I have to acknowledge, in common with other theorists, that on the whole design I have imagined more than has been, or perhaps could be, brought into practice and effect; yet not so with regard to our penitentiary-house; that prison suc: ceeded in its early effects beyond the theory imagined by the original projectors of the system ; far indeed beyond my most san
guine hopes. It is within my own personal knowledge that many returned from this prison to obtain a livelihood by honest industry.
Have you observed the effect of this system on the prisoners during the time they are confined 2–During the first seventeen years that I particularly attended to the effects of this prison, I ever found its inhabitants orderly, obedient to the discipline, and resigned to their situation.
Have you observed any change in their moral character?—I have reason to think that their moral character was, in general, greatl improved by the discipline of this prison; few, if any of them, returned to a second punishment during that period of my attention.
REPORT FROM SELECT ComMITTEE ON ACTS RESPECTING INSOLVENT DEBTORS,
The Select Committee appointed to take into consideration the state of the Law respecting the Discharge of Insolvent Debtors, and the several Acts passed in the 53rd, 54th, and 56th years of the reign of his present Majesty, relative to the same, and the effects produced thereby; and to report to the House their Observations thereupon, and the best means of rendering the same effectual ;
Have proceeded to take the said acts, and the petitions which have been referred to them, into their consideration; and for this purpose have examined several Vol. LXI.
witnesses, and called for various documents. As the result of this inquiry, they feel themselves called upon, in the first place, to express their most decided approbation of the principle, on which they conceive the laws for the relief of insolvent debtors were founded. This principle is, that a debtor ought to be released from custody on making a bonā fide division of all his property amongst his creditors, except in cases where the conduct of the debtor appears to have been fraudulent. But it must be observed, that though this principle appears to be entirely unobjectionable, yet the provisions of the law are so defective, and the practice of the Insolvent debtor's court has been such, that in its practical operation it has hitherto been productive of considerable injustice and inconvenience, and the committee are not at all surprised at the number of petitions against the renewal of the existing acts, which have been presented to the House. In order to secure the just interests of the creditor under a law of this nature, it is absolutely necessary that the whole of the property of the debtor should be fairly and fully stated, in order that it may actually be delivered over and divided amongst the creditors; but, under the present acts, no effectual examination into the truth of the debtor's statement of his property takes place previous to his discharge. From the nature of the case, this must be an examination into matters of account; and when the House considers that it is in evi2 C - dence, dence, that from three to four thousand cases pass through the court in the course of a year, and that under any circumstances matters of account must be very imperfectly inquired into in open court, they will be satisfied that an examination before the commissioner in the Insolvent debtors court, the only one provided for by the present law, must be in the highest degree ineffectual. Another defect in the law, which appears to have a general influence in exposing the creditors to fraud and injustice, is, that, as the law at present stands, the debtor has no interest that his creditors should receive as large a dividend of his property as it is in his power to give them; because, whether they have a large dividend, or whether they have a small one; whether they are satisfied with his conduct, or whether they are dissatisfied, the term of his imprisonment remains the same ; and when once he has received his discharge from the court, his person is equally free. Another great opportunity for committing frauds is afforded to the insolvent from the act having provided, that he should not make ...the statement of his property, and deliver it over for the benefit of his creditors, till the period of his actual liberation; that is to say, till he shall think fit to apply to the court after three months imprisonment; thereby giving him the whole of this interval, either fraudulently to convey the remainder of his property away, or profusely to squander it on himself. It is to be observed, however, that, previous to the passing of these acts, creditors were liable to considerable injustice from
debtors who had sufficient property to pay their debts, but chose to remain in custody, and to set their creditors at defiance. The provisions of the existing law, for the purpose of rendering any property which the insolvent may acquire after his discharge, liable to the debts which he had contracted previously, appear to be so easily evaded, that they can only be put in force when the insolvent himself is willing to comply with them. For, from the circumstance of the debts contracted before his discharge having no precedence with respect to liquidation over those contracted after it, it is always in the power of the debtor to frustrate the provisions of the law by a collusive claim of some subsequent creditor. Besides these principal objections to the acts, which the committee have stated, there are other smaller defects in the constitution of the Insolvent debtors court, in consequence of which, it does not appear to possess all the powers necessary to the performance of its functions. The committee will endeavour to obviate these as well as the greater ones, which have been already mentioned, in the remedy they will have the honour to recommend to the House. But before recommending any remedy, it will be necessary to call the attention of the House to the evils which have arisen, not so much from the provisions of the law itself, as from the mode in which it has been carried into practice. It has been already observed, that an inquiry into any matter of account, in an open court, must necessarily be very very inefficient; but this inefficiency must be increased to a great degree, unless every facility be given to the creditors to carry it on in such a manner as appears to them most likely to lead to a satisfactory result. In order to render this examination as perfect as the nature of the case would admit of, the seventh section of the act of the 53rd of the king, provides, that when the insolvent is brought up into court, to be examined touching the truth of the matter contained in his petition and schedule, “any of the creditors of such prisoner, and any of the persons named or described in such schedule as claiming to be creditors of any such prisoner, and any person or persons not named or described in such schedule, who shall claim to be a creditor or creditors of such prisoner, shall be at liberty to oppose such petition; and for that purpose to put such questions to such prisoner as the said court shall think fit, touching the matters contained in such petition and schedule, and touching such other matters as the said court shall be of opinion it may be fit and proper that such questions should be put, for the due execution of this act.” But by a rule of the Insolvent debtors court, made with the best possible intention, no doubt, no creditor is allowed to oppose the discharge of an insolvent, unless he has given two days notice, not only of such being his intention, but of the particular grounds on which such opposition is to be founded; and this rule has, gene
rally, been interpreted so strict
ly, that, if any new matter has
arisen during the course of the examination, the opposing creditors have not been allowed to take advantage thereof. It is further to be observed, that, as the persons, who are suitors in the Insolvent debtors court, are on one side, at least, always in the lowest state of distress, and that ultimately the expenses of both parties must be drawn from the pockets of the creditors,every proceeding ought, peculiarly in this court, to be attended with as little expense to the parties as possible. With this view, in all the cases where the legislature appear to have contemplated the possibility of the imposition even of stamp duties, they have provided, in the act of the 53rd of the king, that none shall be imposed. This provision has not been quite effectual, because, in the practice of the court, other cases have arisen, where stamps must be affixed, and which were not specially provided for by the act. But the increase of expense to the suitors in this court, which has arisen from this defect in the act, has been trifling, when compared with that which has been incurred in consequence of the establishment of a system of fees by the present commissioner, a considerable share of which he has appropriated to himself. For it appears by the accounts presented, that the nett balances of the money paid into the hands of the receiver of the Insolvent debtors court, during the year 1817, amounted to 6,003l. 14s. 11%d. and during the year 1818, to 5,2611. 17s. 10d., while, during the same years, the aggregate 2 C 2 amount
amount of the fees paid by suitors in this court amounted, for the former year, to 1,420. 11s. 5d., and for the latter year to 1,545l. 13s., being rather more than one quarter of the whole amount of the nett balances in the hands of the receiver. The commissioner did not state any particular inconvenience to have occurred during the time of his predecessor, from such fees not having been established; but assigned, as his reason for originating them, that he considered the salary of the chief clerk inadequate to the duties of his office. He acknowledged that he had not made any representation to the Treasury, as to the inadequacy of this or any other of the
salaries, previous to the establishment of the fees; and that the reason why he thought it desirable that he #. should take a portion of the fees was, “that, when called upon for the purpose, he might know, and be enabled to state, and that correctly, the full amount of fees taken, as allowed by himself.” That the validity of these reasons may be duly estimated by the House, the committee beg leave to submit the amount of the salaries, as established by the lords of the treasury, for the remuneration of the different officers of the court, and a table of the fees which are established, together with the mode in which they are divided.
Per Annum. To the Commissioner ................fl. 2,000 0 0 Chief Clerk ................. .... 400 0 0 Assistant Clerk ............... 200 0 0 Provisional Assignee ......... 100 0 0 Third Clerk ..................... 130 0 0 Fourth Clerk .................. 100 0 0 Fifth Clerk ..................... 80 0 0 DIVISION, Commiss'. I Chief Clerk. F E E S. ..f. s. d.s.f. s. d.lie. s. d. For the discharge of every insolvent - O 5 0 |0 2 6 |O 2 6 every subpoena......... ............... O 2 6 || 0 1 6 1 0 1 0. every rule of court .................. 0 2 0 || 0 1 0 || 0 1 0 filing every special affidavit ...... 0 1 0 | ......... 0 1 0 swearing affidavits in court......... 0 1 0 |0 0 6|0 0 6 every order upon summons ...... 0 1 0 | ......... |0 1 0 every search ................ ........ 0 1 0 | ......... 10 1 0 every certificate of prisoner's disCharge ......... • * * * * * - - - - - - - - - - - - - -. 0 1 0 | ......... 0 1 0 every copy of the schedule of the insolvent (per sheet) ..... .... O 0 4 moiety. moiety.