Egerton v Earl of Brownlow: HL 1853

The House considered a challenge to the terms of a trust on the basis that it offended public policy. The House therefore considered the nature and importance of public policy.
Held: Public policy ‘has been confounded with what may be called political policy; such as whether it is politically wise to have a sinking fund or a paper circulation, or the degree and nature of interference with foreign States; with all which, as applied to the present subject, it has nothing whatever to do.’ For these reasons, in our view, the defendants’ point on public policy is wholly unfounded.’ (Lord Truro)
Parke B: ‘Public policy is a vague and unsatisfactory term, and calculated to lead to uncertainty and error, when applied to the decision of legal rights; it is capable of being understood in different senses; it may, and does, in its ordinary sense, mean ‘political expedience,’ or that which is best for the common good of the community; and in that sense there may be every variety of opinion, according to education, habits, talents, and dispositions of each person, who is to decide whether an act is against public policy or not. It is the province of the statesman, and not the lawyer, to discuss, and of the Legislature to determine, what is best for the public good, and to provide for it by proper enactments. It is the province of the judge to expound the law only; the written from the statutes: the unwritten or common law from the decisions of our predecessors and of our existing courts, from the text writers of acknowledged authority, and upon principles to be clearly deduced from them by sound reason and just inference; not to speculate upon what is best, in his opinion, for the advantage of the community. Some of these decisions may have no doubt been founded upon the prevailing and just opinions of the public good; for instance, the illegality of covenants in restraint of marriage or trade. They have become part of the established law, and we are therefore bound by them, but we are not thereby authorised to establish as law everything which we may think for the public good, and prohibit everything which we think otherwise.’

Lord Truro, Parke B
[1853] 4 HLC 484, [1853] 4 HLC 1, [1853] EngR 885, (1853) 10 ER 359
England and Wales
Appeal fromEgerton v Lord Brownlow 20-Aug-1851
John WilIiam Earl of Bridgewater devised his freehold estates to trustees, in trust to convey them to the use of Lord Alford, his great-nephew, for ninety-nine years, if he should so long live ; remainder to trustees and their heirs doring the life . .

Cited by:
CitedJ v S T (Formerly J) CA 21-Nov-1996
The parties had married, but the male partner was a transsexual, having been born female and having undergone treatment for Gender Identity Dysphoria. After IVF treatment, the couple had a child. As the marriage broke down the truth was revealed in . .
CitedLound v Grimwade ChD 1886
The plaintiff tried to set aside a bond, saying that he had executed it under duress in the form of the threat of criminal proceedings.
Held: The bond had not been executed under pressure at law. However the consideration for it included a . .
CitedAustralia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd v Compagnie Noga D’Importation Et D’Exportation Sa and Another ComC 21-Feb-2007
Non-payment of bills of exchange – construction of settlement agreement. It was said that the compromise agreement ws unenforceable as being against public policy in restraining one party.
Held: The restraint ‘does not affect the course of . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Trusts, Constitutional

Updated: 05 December 2021; Ref: scu.235300