Page images
PDF
EPUB

and Chapter should, upon a fine of £20, grant them a new one for the same number of years.

Old Mountjoy House was burnt down in the Great Fire, and the Doctors were without an abiding place of their own. In 1670 they obtained a new lease of the property from the Dean and Chapter for sixty years, and shortly afterwards set to work to rebuild the College in its existing form.

The new lease was to expire in 1730, but previously to its expiration the Doctors applied to the Dean and Chapter to renew upon surrender agreeably to the terms of the covenant made in 1567. This the Dean and Chapter declined to do, being fortified in their refusal by the 14 Eliz., c. 11, which disabled Dean and Chapters, with other ecclesiastical corporations, from granting leases of houses in any city or town corporate for a longer term than forty years. After some squabbling both in Chancery and in the House of Lords, the latter judicature decreed that the Dean and Chapter should grant a new lease on the same trust as that upon which the old lease had been made, but for the term of forty years only.

This further lease was accordingly made. It expired in 1770, and the old litigation recommenced, by the Doctors filing a bill in Chancery praying that the Dean and Chapter might be compelled to grant a new lease on the same terms as that which had been directed by the Court in 1728. In 1767 the Lord Chancellor dismissed the Doctors' bill, and by his decree deprived them of all beneficial interest in the estate.

When the Doctors found themselves baffled in obtaining a lease

upon easy terms, they made up their minds to effect a fair bargain with the Dean and Chapter ; and with a view to enable themselves to treat with the latter without the intervention of trustees, they procured, in 1768, a royal charter of incorporation.

On the expiration of their old lease in 1770, they purchased a new one of the Dean and Chapter for a term of forty years,

and also obtained from the lessors an agreement by which the latter engaged to convey to them the freehold and feesimple of the estate for ever, in case such agreement should be confirmed and carried into effect by Parliament. The agreement was afterwards confirmed and carried into effect by a private Act, (the 23 Geo. III., c. 30). In the preamble of this Act it is stated that the object of the Fellows of the College was to procure and secure to themselves a fixed abode, and that the Act was passed for effecting that purpose.

Time rolled on, and in 1857 the Doctors came to the conclusion that quâ such they required no fixed abode, and by 20 & 21 Vict, c. 77, they obtained power to sell the estate for their own private use and benefit. Whether the Doctors were influenced in taking this step by the recorded reasoning of Sir Boyle Roche, we cannot say, but they have as clearly by their actions ignored the claims of posterity as that gentleman is said to have done by his words.

There is much however that is grave and consequential in the act of the Legislature which has sanctioned the sale of the college. Though this is an age ripe and apt for the introduction of law which would have startled our forefathers, this, perhaps, is the most striking instance which has yet appeared of the prevalent laxity of legislation ; and it is noticeable that it should have been enacted for the especial behoof of Doctors' Commons, so long the stronghold of conservatism.

In the enactment, however, there must be a principle, if we can but find it. It would, upon investigation, seem to be no other than this,—that a corporation may, if it so please the Legislature, be converted from life-tenants or trustees into beneficial freeholders, and no consideration that the public might have derived a benefit from the continuance of the trust should be allowed to militate against the conversion, unless of course the public, in the name of the poor, or other claims equally strong, have a definable and distinct interest in the application of the revenues of the property in question.

This principle, bold and subversive of timid restraints as it

The Metropolitan and Provincial Law Association. 125

is, is intelligible, and may possibly be applicable to other and analogous cases, as a protest against useless and unnecessary mortmain.

We will not venture to define what may be all the analogous cases, but we cannot forbear to point out a certain class of them which we think are of such a nature.

We all know that some of the corporate companies of the city of London possess large and princely !(ere long to become larger and more princely) estates in the North of Ireland. These magnificent properties they hold upon no particular trust, except to apply their revenues to the use and behoof of the members of these companies.

Here, we think, the example of Doctors' Commons might be beneficially followed. A participation of these estates amongst the members of the companies would, by bringing back a landed gentry to a soil from which it has been eliminated, operate more effectively to consolidate and improve the tenantry, than all the best endeavours which philosophy may dictate without the presence of resident landlords.

The beneficial influence of a housekeeping landed gentry is so mighty, that we scarcely fear to assert that a pack of hounds with a resident landlord will do more social good to a district than the best managed school, where there is no person of that grade and influence.

ART. X.—THE METROPOLITAN AND PROVIN

CIAL LAW ASSOCIATION AT BIRMINGHAM. THE Metropolitan and Provincial Law Association is a

Society of Attorneys and Solicitors, established in the year 1847, " for the purpose of promoting the interests of suitors, and the better and more economical administration of the law, of obtaining the removal of the many and serious grievances to solicitors, and through them, to the suitors, and of maintaining the rights and increasing the usefulness of the profession.”

Its history is, we believe, correctly stated in an article in THE LAW MAGAZINE for 1848,(N.S. Vol. VIII.,) and it will be sufficient, here, to say that its establishment was the result of a conviction among many eminent members of that branch of the profession in town and country, that much crude and unwise legislation, hurtful alike to the profession and the public, would have been avoided, if the experience and rights of the profession had been regarded and maintained. They felt that as attorneys and solicitors were necessary agents in carrying into effect all improvements in the law, it was an injury, not only to them, but to the public, to neglect their assistance or lower their status; and they resolved to organize in self-defence. They deemed it necessary that this organization should be distinct from the Incorporated Law Society, which, it is well known, has an official control by charter over the whole body of attorneys and solicitors. The constitution and purposes of that society unfit it for the popular and prompt action which is the necessity of a defensive organization. That there is no rivalry between the two societies is clearly evidenced by the fact, that several members of the Council of the Incorporated Law Society are among the most active on the committee of management of the other society, and that on almost all the important questions which have concerned the profession, the two societies have worked harmoniously together.

The difference between the action of the two societies is, perhaps, best illustrated by such a meeting as that which has just taken place in Birmingham. Since the year 1854, in addition to the ordinary business of the association, which is necessarily done in London, its members have held meetings in the principal towns and cities.

At these meetings papers are read and discussions held on subjects affecting the interests of the profession. In this way the association has in turn visited Leeds, Birmingham, (twice,) Liverpool, Manchester, Bristol,

Newcastle-on-Tyne, and Worcester. Its second visit to Birmingham took place on the 7th and 8th of October; and, to show how attorneys and solicitors think and speak on professional topics, we present a very condensed account of the proceedings. The Chairman of the Association, Mr. T. Avison of Liverpool, first delivered his annual address, and after some congratulatory remarks said:

“It appears to me that this forms a most fit occasion for putting the question to ourselves—Have these aggregate autumnal meetings of the association succeeded ?

I think, gentlemen, that there can hardly be but one reply to this question. I have been present at nearly all of our meetings, and I feel that whether we consider them as means of making us better acquainted with each other, or whether we judge of their success by the merits of the various valuable papers which have been read to us, we must pronounce them a success. It appears to me that one of the great evils to which our profession is liable is this, that we are too much isolated from each other, and that we act too independently. I believe that these are the great causes of our weakness as a body, and that we must seek in collective and co-operative action the means of raising us as a profession, and giving us that power which we ought to possess. Gentlemen, if we compare the position of this association at the present time with what it was when we met here in the year 1855, we shall find that we have gained much additional power and much respect. Our association is now consulted by the highest legal authorities, and the suggestions of our committee and members are invariably considered with the greatest attention and respect. I hope that I shall be able to satisfy you all upon this point before I close my present very imperfect observations. It now becomes my duty, as chairman of the association, to give you a short account of the endeavours made, and the results obtained by your committee of management, since the metropolitan annual meeting, held on the 16th of April last, up to which time you have all received similar information

« PreviousContinue »