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strengthen the hands of Government, but would come forward with the utmost zeal, when necessary.
The Earl of Suffolk faid, he was happy to hear what had fallen from both noble Lords; but the proportion of London ought to be large. Its population, he believed, to be about a ninth of the whole kingdom. Th:county he belonged to, his Lordship said, only consisted of about 100,000 inhabi. tants, and yet contributed largely to the supplementary militia.
The Irish Army of Reserve bill was read a second time, and committed for next day.-Adjourned.
HOUSE OF COMMONS.
FRIDAY, JULY 8. The exchequer bills' bill was read a third time and passed.
The Inspector General of exports and imports presented several accounts, which were ordered to be laid upon the table.
The Guernsey corn bill was read a second time, and committed for Monday.
The wine bonding bill was read a second time, and committed for Monday.
A message from the Lords informed the House, their Lordships had agreed to a bill to render justices of the peace more safe in the execution of their duty upon fummary convictions, in cases wherein it should appear they had a reasonable ground for convi&ting. The bill was read a first, and ordered to be read a second time on Monday, and in the mean time printed.
SEAMEN. Sir W. Scott said, that in consequence of the present hoftilities between this country and France, he rofe to bring in a bill for the encouragement of seamen. The bill was partly of the same nature as an antecedent one he had iniroduced, and therefore it was unnecessary to say much upon the subject. It was founded on the ancient rules of the Admiralty courts, and the Vice-Admiralty courts, dil. persed throughout his Majesty's dominions.' It was his duty, however, to enter into fome explanation of the measure: that gallant body of men, the feainen of Great Britain, had an irresistible claim on the Legislature of this country, for every practicable attention th..i could be paid to their interest. It was a known mark of their character (he spoke
475 of the lower classes) that they were not equal to the task of taking care of themselves; his Majesty's courts had been long in the habit of thinking for them. This arose from their improvident indiscretion, against the effect of which it was in view to provide, at the fame time breaking in as little as possible upon those principles which left men free to difpole of what they consider their own. To the present time, they had 'appointed their own agents and trustees, and revoked the appointment as they thought proper. They had the power of transferring the whole contingent interest they might be entitled to during the war, within a week after its commencement, for any consideration, however inadequate. With regard to an interest like this, which must be considered as flowing from the bounty of the Crown, and to which the party had no antecedent right, any regulations that might be necessary could not be considered injurious encroachments on the rights of the seamen. In the regulations he propofed to submit to the wisdom of the House, he 1hould confine himself as much as possible to that which was most desirable in all matters of legislation, namely, to depart no further from the present usage than was absolutely necessary. It had been proposed that there should be a public office erected, with powers for conducting the whole business of prizes on one general system. He could not deny that a principle of this kind would be attended with ad. vantages, but he was not sure that many of those advantages might not be obtained from the modification of the system which at present prevailed--a system which left the parties to the noinination of those in whom they confided their interest. Such a system was inore natural, because it was more acceptable to those for whose benefit it was intended. It also recommended itself because it was calculated for the. existing interests of those who had hitherto acted as agents, persons whom he could not admit had forfeited their claims 'o the just attention of the Legillature. He must honestly avow, that as far as his attention had been directed to that class of men, the navy agents, it was his opinion a very large portion of the odium excited against them, arose from misrepresentations, not properly considered by those who concurred in them. The adoption of that system, which left men to the nomination of their own agents, was not all he propofed. He wilhed to guard the nomination by regulations; it would be a great improvement of the plan, if, after agents were nominated by private individuals, they
were clothed with a public, legal known character, which rendered them amenable for their conduct. For that purpose, one regulation he should propose was, that on the no. mination of an agent, the power of attorney should be immediately registered in the Court of Admiralty. At present he did not register the power of attorney, till fix months after it was granted, consequently, till the arrival of that period he was not known. By registering his power of attorney, he would be known to the court, and liable to its authority during the whole time. A second regulation was, that at the time of registering the letters of attorney, the agent should give security, in a considerable sun, for the execution of his trust. At present, no security was given, and consequently a seaman might pick up the most necdy man he could find, on Portsmouth Point, to be his agent. When he considered this, he thought it surprising that the men usually employed should in general have acted fo honourably as they had done. The great evil was, in the other parts of his Majesty's dominions. The misconduct of these men abroad were the rocks on which the seamens' fortunes were shipwrecked. He could not help thinking the provisions he had introduced, two years ago, would prevent the recurrence of those mischiefs which had taken place during the late war. The effect of giving this purity to the fyftem would be, that of confining the profeffion of agent to men of property and credit, or whofe conduct had engaged the confidence of those who employed them. The next regulation was, that the letters of agency being registered, thould not be revoked, but upon complaint to the court, and an order for that purpose. As the matter stood at present, the agents were liable to be removed on the fuggestion of the lowest classes of the law, to whom the seamen were particularly exposed. Questions frequently arose as to who was the legal agent, and considerable fums of money were spent, in deciding that point. Such was the basis of his plan. He thould propose that the agent Thould be inverted with the permanence that belonged to a public character, so long as he exercised it with propriety. Another regulation was, that, upon the institution of any appeal, it should be lawful for the Judge of the Admirally to order in the proceeds, and invest them. With respect to the navy, that question stood in a lamentable way. The monev, Juring the whole time of the appeal, remained in the hands of the agent; in consequence of this, he had an interest
adverse to his principle. The evil did not rest there. If the appeal was determined in favour of the captor, the profits of the principal rested with the agent; on the contrary, if the captor was condemned, he was liable to pay the interest. An, other regulation was, that, after the time of appeal was elapsed, it should be in the power of the Judge of the Admiralty to compel a diftribution. It would surprise the House to hear, that there was no power to compel a distribution, but by action at law, or by a bill in Chancery. He should submit, whether it would not be more beneficial, that the court should have the power of following up the agent to a full execution of his duty. At present, it had only the power of verifying accounts, or disallowing them; but it stopped at that point where its au: thority was most required. Another regulation went to this, that no seaman should be allowed to make the general power of attorney to which he had adverted, in a way by which he might, for a temporary gratification, convey his whole intea rest in his future prize-money. It would be highly important that the power of attorney should be a special power of attorney, appointing the particular source out of which the interest conveyed was to arife. To this he should add another regulation respecting the dates of the prizes. When prizes were made in the West Indies, the seamen were often removed to other ships, and what became of the prizes, whether they were condemned or not, they knew not. He should provide that registers of prizes should be transmitted home every month he meant a list of all the prizes that had gone through the adjudication of the court. These were the regulations to which he should solicit the attention of the naval members of the House. They were firongly recommended to him by the noble person who at present presided over the naval departe ment. The House would see that he had not pressed this sube ject beyond what justice demanded. There were other details which had engaged the attention of that department. The House would undoubtedly improve upon them. He was content with having stated the modifications. He was persuaded the House would, by adopting them, contribute to the comforts of a class of men whom it was their interest to protect. The right hon. and learned Gentleman concluded by moving,
That leave be given to bring in a bill for the encouragement of seamen, and for the better and more effcctualiy manning his Majesty's navy."
Mr. Johnstone said, he did not rise to oppose the bringing in of this bill; but lie was forry that; from a measure at this VOL. IV. 1802-3.
nature being brought forward at this particular moment, he could not but augur that there was no longer any hope that the mediation of Rutlia would take effect. For if this bill is passed into a law, and peace should soon afterwards take place, there would neceffarily arise the utmost difficulty as to the restoration of prizes. This was fully evinced, he said, by what had so lately taken place on the iermination of our dispute with the northern powers. He then adverted to the motion he had made two years ago, and the papers be had brought forward relative to the state of prize money and appeals, which were then most dreadfully in arrear. Notwithstanding it was now two years since the peace took place, there were still near 250 causes to be heard. He acknowledged the great industry of the right hon. and learned Gentleman in getting through so many as he had done, and confessed his rare talents were peculiarly well adapted to forward and proinote a measure like that to be prepared by the present bill; but he thought it impossible for the right hon. and learned Gentleman to attend to such an arrear of appeals as that he had just mentioned, and to pay at the same time due attention to the business of his own courts. He saw a necessity for some arrangements, by which appeals may be got rid of, by quickening the proceedings of the court; at present, however, he would not trouble the House by going into the subject. As to the present bill, he should abstain from saying any thing further till it came before the House.
Admiral Berkley said a few words upon the subject : he alluded to some complaints urged on a former night by an hon. Friend of his, when he was not in his place, which he hoped would be attended to.
The Attorney General said, if any such complaints had been, or should be made, he had no doubt but his right hon. and learned Friend would attend to them. He hoped leave would be given to bring in the bill. The measure was called for from the justice of the House. It was always usual to pass such a bill at the commencement of every war, and it ought not to be retarded from so light a confideration as that of the mediation of Russia taking immediate effect, as the hon. Gentleman opposite to him (Mr. Jolinstone) had suggested. He answered generally the obfervations made by that hon. Gentleman, relative to the number of appeals in arrear, and concluded by hoping no further objection would be made to bringing in the bill, as