21 AUGUST 1858, Page 15

THE GREAT CONEY CASE.

"FLEAS are not lobsters, damn their souls," as the philoso- pher exclaimed in the agony of disappointment. "Coneys are not royalties" the Honourable and Reverend W. Howard has as- certained—but we suppose he omitted Butler's expletive. The: coney question has been gravely tried, and the decision is not. altogether unimportant. Mr. Richard Sellars, coal proprietor and farmer, is tenant of extensive lands under the Earl of hffing- ham. Amongst these lauds is a field of corn, recently standing, which adjoins one of the Earl's rabbit covers named Hudson Rough. The rabbits occasionally "made sad work with the corn," and on the evening of the 5th of July, Mr. Sellars, accom- panied by one of his servants, walked through the field with a couple of guns, as he "thought would be no harm in killing a few of the rabbits." But the Earl's game-keeper, John Wil- son, took an opposite view of the expedition, and M;. Sellars was. summoned before the magistrates "for being on the land of the Earl of Effingham in search of coneys." The defence was ingenious, and a second day's sitting was neces- sary before the Magistrates could finally determine. In the first place the defendant's attorney contended that rabbits or coneys are. not game under the Game Acts ; which was admitted. But was not the defendant restrained under the lease by which he held his land, and in which the landlord, the Earl of Effingham, reserved. "all royalties, and the free liberties of hunting, hawking, fishing, and fowling" ? Mr. Sellars was not in search of amusement; nothing was proved against him, but the fact of his being in the field with a gun in search of the rabbits ; and there was not a. shadow of evidence to impugn his explanation which the game- keeper evidently believed, that he assaulted the coneys simply to protect his own corn against their trespass. It is a pity that cases of this kind need ever be brought into court, and we much doubt whether the barons of England and the country gentlemen at large could not as easily as advantageously keep them out. The owners of land have of course a perfect right—at least under existing statutes and tenures—to let their land as they please. On the very broadest view it may be ques- tioned whether any man has a right to withhold from society ac- cess to land available for human culture ; but there needs be no nice dispute on that point. Tenants would readily take the land on conditions compensated by allowances in the rent; only, to make the ease perfectly clear "between man and man," land- lords, under such circumstances, should be as explicit as possible on every point ; not employing agents "to make the best bar- gain," to make light, for example, of the fact that coneys might come among the corn. Granted that game is preserved only for amusement, yet if the barons and country gentlemen would but lend their help to procure correlative amusements for other classes, if the people found in them the defenders of commons and village greens, and the coadjutors in giving parks to great towns their request to reserve a portion of land for game would be met more than half way. Nor have we yet arrived at the time when all lands must be given up to culture, and none reserved for amuse- ment or recreation. Agricultural improvements are teaching a better economy of mere space, and in the present day we could afford, more than in the days of William the Second, to let a king have even a New Forest if he wished it. But in such cases the game-preserving should be well divided from the more serious business of agriculture, and no warrens should be kept where the denizens could stray upon corn lands. For coneys are not game "; therefore they are not "royal- ties"; and therefore it was, at last, decided by the bench of magis- trates, that the said coneys were not reserved in the clause of Lord Effingham's lease.

A curious, and we believe an unsual, scene was enacted on the bench just before the final judgment. The Chairman was the Honourable and Reverend W. Howard, Lord Effingham's brother, who seems to have favoured a proposal that the information should be altered, by substituting the word "game "for coneys ; which would not have much mended the prosecution. After- wards the reverend gentleman declared the bench to have decided, on the previous day, "that Mr. Sellars was out in search of game or anything else that came in his way." The majority of the. magistrates do not appear to have confirmed this view; at all. events they overruled the proposal to alter the information; ank they dismissed the ease. The upshot of the decision is, that co- neys are not royalties ; and that where they are not specially re- served in their own name as a mere condition of lease, farmers, may drive the vermin off ;heir land, or if they trespass,on it, may treat them like stoats and crows.