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keep him too from shooting, particularly when the expense of the certificate is considered. If that be not thought security enough, his right of shooting, as has been said before, may be made the subject of specific stipulation when his lease is granted to him.
Where then is the excess of public good, derived from the restrictions imposed upon the general right to pursue game, to overbalance the private evil of the restraint? Even though in the origin of those restrictions it may be thought to be discernible, now at least it no longer exists: and when we consider how constantly those restrictions are disregarded, we cannot hesitate to come to the conclusion that no sensible good effects are produced by their continuance. For, as is well said by Mr. Peel, if laws stand upon our Statute Book which are evaded and violated every day, this is of itself a sufficient reason for their repeal.
Here, perhaps, it may be as well for me to state the conclusions to which the best consideration that I have been able to give to the subject has led me, so far as I have at present advanced with it.
The law, as it now stands, acknowledges and sanctions, as we have seen, a qualified property in game-the only property which can, as it appears to me, agreeably to reason and consistently with the nature of the subject, be recognised in animals feræ naturæ whilst living and wild. Upon the subject of property then, it does not appear to me that any alteration is called for, or can with propriety be made.
Not so as to the law of qualifica tions. Until that law appeared upon our Statute books, we have seen
that every individual had an equal right to pursue game, provided he trespassed not on the property of others. So far, at least, as those who have either land of their own to shoot upon, or permission from those who have to shoot upon theirs, the restrictions imposed by that law are, as I humbly conceive, impolitic and unjust. They ought therefore to be removed.
There is, undoubtedly, a very numerous body of individuals, who have neither land of their own, nor are likely ever to have permission to shoot upon that of others. them the existing disqualifications produce no actual evil, nor would the removal of them bring any po sitive good. It is however, as they who have given much attention to the question can truly tell, beyond measure difficult to draw any satisfactory line of distinction. And when it is considered that, so far as the destruction of game is concerned, it is perfectly immaterial whether the punishment, provided it be the same, be inflicted for the act of shooting or for the offence of trespass-whilst it must be recollected that the natural feelings of every man lead him to look with jealousy at any restriction imposed upon him, which is not imposed upon other classes of society-it may well be thought the better course to abolish all restrictions at once. The law of trespass may be safely trusted to as an equally efficient security, whether against the injury of property or the destruction of game.
At the same time it would, I think, be desirable for the protection of landowners to give increased facility to the conviction and punishment of the trespasser. For this purpose, I would subject every man to a penalty who shall com
mit a trespass upon the land of another in the pursuit of his sports. The action of trespass is too circuitous and expensive a remedy. I would therefore let the penalty be recoverable before a Magistrate in a summary manner. To facilitate the discovery of the offender, I would farther require him to give his name and address under a penalty for the refusal, upon the same principle as has been applied in the case of certificates. The amount of the different penalties may be the subject of farther consideration. The fair sportsman shoots only over his own grounds, or where he has permission; he wishes not to trespass upon the lands of others; and he cannot, therefore, object to this. As it may, how ever, happen to him, that, in a country with which he is not well acquainted, he may stray beyond his beat, I would exempt every man from the penalty who should prove that he had permission to shoot over ground so near to that on which he was charged with trespassing, as to lead to reasonable presumption in the mind of the Magistrate that the trespass was accidental and unintentional.
Thus far had I written, when the newspaper of the morning conveyed to me the intelligence that the Committee of the House of Lords had made their report, and at the same time furnished me with a copy of it*. The opinion they have come to is as follows:1. That the laws which prohibit the sale and purchase of game have been found, for some years past, to be inefficient for their purpose, and to have been constantly and systematically evaded and set at defiance.
2. That these laws ought to be repealed, or so altered as to per mit game to be lawfully sold, under certain regulations.
3. That the laws which confine the right of sporting or pursuing game, and also the possession of game, to persons having certain qualifications by birth or estate, are in some respects unjust, and should be amended.
4. That in order to give additional facilities to a regular supply of game to the market by qualified persons, in case of the sale and purchase of game being permitted by law; and also to place the law, with regard to qualifications, upon a more reasonable and just footing; all persons occupying ten contiguous acres, or more, of land should be deemed to be qualified to sport on such land in their occupation with the consent of the owner of such land; and that all owners of ten contiguous acres should be deemed qualified to sport upon such lands.
5. That all persons qualified by any law now in being should have the right to permit any person, whether qualified or not, to sport upon the lands of such qualified persons.
6. That all lords of manors should have the right to permit any person, whether qualified or not, to sport upon the waste or commonable lands within their manors.
7. That inasmuch as the legal sale and purchase of game will necessarily invest that article, in some degree, with the character of property, it appears to be just and reasonable that it should be protected from trespassers, under the pretence or for the purpose of
• The MS. of this part was in our possession before the publication of the Report of
the House of Lords.--ED.
sporting, by some more effectual and summary means than at present exist; and that such trespas sers, whether qualified or not, should be subject to a punishment, by way of fine, by a Magistrate; always excepting such trespasses as may be committed in coursing and hunting in re cent pursuit, the existing remedies for which may be considered as sufficient.
8. That the proposed alterations in the law should not be permitted to interfere with any existing forestal rights, or rights of free warren or free chase, or manorial rights whatever.
9. That the practice of going out by night to poach in large gangs has very much increased of late years, and has, in very numerous instances, led to the commission of murder and other grievous offences.
10. That the only Statute which refers specially to this practice is that of the 57th Geo. III. c. 90, which appears not to have been effectual, and should, in the opinion of the Committee, be revised. It is gratifying to ine to see how closely the alterations they recommend approach to the ideas which I have ventured to express upon the subject of qualifications.
They are, however, open to some observations, to which I will presently allude. But I will first make a remark or two upon the evidence upon which that Report is founded. This I have since made it my business to procure, and have read with considerable attention. In the perusal, I have met with much that is highly confirmatory of many of the arguments which I have adopted. It forms a body of most important information, combining, as it does,
the opinions of general dealers, small freeholders, and farmers, who speak to the manner in which game is collected in the country, and to the earlier stage of the sup ply; salesmen and poulterers, through whom the market is supplied in the metropolis, and who, therefore, are able to give information as to the last stage of that supply; and Noblemen and Gentlemen of large landed property, who are sportsmen, preservers of game, and magistrates, and who not only have the advantage of practical experience upon the present state of the law and its results, but are able to bring enlightened minds and cultivated understandings to the consideration of the question. This last class of witnesses, too, has been judiciously selected, inasmuch as it consists of landowners in the two leading varieties of the country-the agricultural and the manufacturing districts.
It is true, that this evidence, if taken as a whole, is not without some inconsistencies and contradictions; nor is that, perhaps, to be wondered at, when it is recollected that it treats of a subject upon which there has been so much diversity of opinion at different times expressed. If, however, it be viewed in its proper light, those inconsistencies will in a great degree vanish. Nothing can be more natural or more proper, than to seek information upon any subject from those whose daily pursuit it forms. They are necessarily conversant with every thing immediately connected with it. Whilst, therefore, the country dealer speaks of the manner in which the game is collected and forwarded to London, or the larger towns in the country, or the London dealer
of the manner in which he receives and distributes it when collected, each is entitled to credit: so also when either of them speaks of the extent of the supply. Cuilibet in arte sua perito credendum est. But ne sutor ultra crepidam! when the London dealer talks of the best nights for poaching, no wonder that the country dealer tells a different story. Thus we have it in evidence from the London dealer, that bright star-light nights are the best for taking pheasants; whilst the countryman, with more probability, tells us that the quiet dark night is usually preferred. So also there is some contrariety of opinion as to what constitutes the principal inducement to poaching; and it will be found that the gentlemen examined differ in the opinions with which they have favored the Committee upon this important point: but the diversity will be in a great measure account ed for, when it is observed that they are speaking of different districts, the property of some of them lying near large manufacturing towns, whilst that of others is in an entire ly agricultural neighbourhood. To give to the evidence the full weight which it deserves at our hands, due attention must be paid, not only to the subject which is spoken of, but also to the opportunities which the witness has enjoyed of obtaining information upon it.
One of the leading objections which has been made to the extension of the privilege of shooting, or rather the removal of the existing disqualifications, is, that the num ber of men who would then shoot would be so increased as to lead to the total destruction of game. In considering this objection some pages back, and before I had seen † Evid. p. 112.
Evid. p. 121.
the report, I expressed a conviction that, so far from that being the probable result, it would be found on the contrary, that when every farmer was permitted to shoot, he would be more anxious, and therefore more likely to preserve, and consequently increase, the game on his farm. I spoke also of there being many landowners who were so satisfied of this, that they encouraged the yeomen in their neighbourhood in occasionally taking up their guns. This ob jection is in fact almost the only one much pressed by the opponents of the proposed alteration; and as I know that many gentlemen entertain strong fears upon the subject, I am glad to find what I be fore said confirmed, so fully as it is, by the evidence now published. Mr. Bradshaw, a Member of the Lower House, thinks that the right to sport and kill game should be concurrent with the right to the land; that such would be the most effectual way to put down poaching; and that, when the game was let to the tenant, he would have a direct interest in preserving it. A Yorkshire Freeholdert tells us, that in his country the small farmers are at present the chief poachers. Sir Wm. Cooke‡ speaks of a feeling in favour of poachers amongst farmers who cannot shoot themselves, and have therefore no inclination to preserve. Mr. Benett the Member for Wiltshire§, says, that the unqualified freeholder thinks that he has not the whole right of the soil as the large freeholder, and that he is deprived, by the present law, of the rights attached to the land he possesses: and he tells us, that in his country the tenants generally are allowed to sport to a certain extent, and upon § Evid. p. 52.
Evid. p. 115.
certain lands; but, inasmuch as they are at the mercy of the poachers, who may inform against them for not being qualified, they dare not attempt to stop them. There are other witnesses whose testimony is to the same effect; but what has been already adduced forms a sufficiently strong body of corroborative evidence to confirm what I have so advanced.
Nothing can be more true than the opinion expressed in the first Resolution by the Noble Lords who formed the Committee, nor consequently more correct than the conclusion to which they come in the second. The third Resolution is not less entitled to praise. But why they should, in their fourth, fix upon ten acres as the quantity of land which alone should entitle a man to the exercise of one of the rights attached, as Mr. Benett says, to that land, it is not easy to conceive. I own I would rather see the existing restrictions altogether removed, and with them the unpleasant feeling which is too likely to arise in the mind of him who has only nine acres. As, however, so much good is proposed to be effected, I am not disposed to press too warmly for more; particularly as that limitation may perhaps have been made with a view to meet in some degree the prejudices which are still supposed, though I hope incorrectly, to exist in certain quarters upon the subject, and may not ultimately be productive of much private disadvantage. The requiring the consent of the owner, in the case of the occupier of land, is judicious. It is scarcely probable that a landlord would not have made some provision or stipulation to this effect in his lease, if he had, at the time of granting it, contemplated
any change in the law of qualifica tiens similar to that now proposed. The fifth restrains the right of permitting others to shoot to those who are now qualified. Nothing can be more clear in principle, than that he who has land of his own, over which he has a right to shoot himself, ought to be able to permit another to shoot over that land. If the right to kill game himself on his own land be desirable to a man, surely he ought to be allowed to do so through the agency of another, if accident or infirmity prevent him from exercising the right himself. It is difficult to conceive upon what principle it is to be made law, that if a man has ten acres he shall be at liberty to kill game himself for his own use; but if he be too old or too ill to shoot for himself, he shall not be allowed to send his son out to do it for him. The sixth resolution as to manors, and the eighth as to franchises, seem reasonable and proper. I do not much like the recital in the seventh. It has a tendency to throw a shade of doubt over the existence of a qualified property in game at present, which does not appear to me to be warranted; otherwise, the protection to be afforded in a summary manner against trespassers is good. To the cases excepted, it would be desirable to add the one which I have before alluded to, of the accidental trespasser inadvertently straying off the land where he had permission to shoot. The ninth and tenth, like the first and second, are correct in the opinion expressed, and in the conclusion which is drawn from it.
I do not apologize for thus freely giving my thoughts upon the Report, somewhat too out of the regular course I had prescribed to