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on the slave-trade alone will show Mr. Reeves's extraordinary assiduity and despatch. His health, however, could not continually hold out in seconding his zeal: it began to sink under incessant fatigue; and he found it necessary to forego the usual pleasures of literary retirement in the summers of 1788 and 1789, and to employ those intervals of official duty in two short excursions to the Continent. A new field soon opened for the exercise of his recovered vigour.
In the year 1790, the attention of the Board of Trade was very much taken up with the complaints of the adventurers in the Newfoundland fishery, against the court of judicature lately established there by the governors authority. The struggles and alternate successes of two contending parties had kept the affairs of the island in a state of great convulsion, almost from the very period of its settlement. The planters and inhabitants, on one hand, as they always resided there, were anxious to enjoy the protection of a government and police, with the administration of justice; while, on the other hand, the adventurers and merchants, who carried on the fishery from this country, and visited that island only for the season, needed no such protection for themselves, and had strong reasons of a private nature for preventing its being afforded to others. Admiral Milbanke, who went out as governor in 1789, thought himself authorised, by the words of his commission, to establish a court with full power to redress every grievance, and to decide every civil controversy. He therefore instituted a Court of Common Pleas, to proceed by a jury, in the manner of a court of common law in this kingdom; and the judges whom he appointed set about the transaction of business accordingly. The merchants and adventurers soon became very clamorous against the proceedings of this court. Their pretences were seen through by his Majesty's ministers; but it appearing to the law officers that the governor had not authority, under the words of his commission, to institute that or any other court for civil causes, and it appearing to the Committee of Council for Trade that a court of civil jurisdiction ought to be established, they recommended to his Majesty to appoint, or to authorise the governor, by proper words, to appoint one; and this court, they recommended, should proceed in a summary way. However, no court was then established; and the Court of Common Pleas instituted by the governor continued, during the year 1790, to proceed as before. The subject was again taken up by the Committee of Trade, in the year 1791; and a bill was presented to parliament under their direction, for instituting a court of the sort they had recommended in their former representation to his Majesty. This bill passed into a law; and being intended as an experiment of a new judicature, it was to endure for one year only.
Government immediately fixed upon Mr. Reeves, as the most proper person to carry this experiment into effect, to visit the island in quality of Chief Justice, and to make report from his own observation on the spot of any further measures which might appear necessary to enforce a strict and impartial administration of the laws. Mr. Reeves discharged the duties of his new commission with his usual ardour and celerity. He went to Newfoundland in August, 1791, and returned in the middle of November, the same year, having prepared and digested a variety of amendments in the late bill. These amendments received the sanction of parliament in 1792; and as they also were to be tried for a year, Mr. Reeves was again sent to Newfoundland in his former capacity, to superintend this second experiment. He set sail, as before, in August, and came back in November; having partly adjusted the differences by which that settlement had been so long distracted, and having laid the foundations of a law court upon principles which were likely to secure the equal distribution of justice to the merchant and the planter, the rich and the poor, the master and the fisherman.
In order to assist the legislature in its deliberations on the propriety of giving permanence to such an institution, Mr. Reeves laid before that body, in the beginning of the year 1793, a well-arranged statement of facts relative to the great points of debate; illustrated by several very pertinent and judicious remarks. He had at first designed this result of his historical researches concerning the government of Newfoundland for the sole use of the Board of Trade; but he was afterwards induced to print it, and to throw it, among other materials, under the examination of the House of Commons, as soon as the Judicature Bill became a subject of public enquiry. The merit of the book, and the number of persons deeply concerned in the discussion, could not fail of securing a considerable sale. The author's disinterestedness was evinced by his assignment of the profits to the relief of the suffering clergy of France, refugees in the British dominions.
Mr. Reeves's first voyage to Newfoundland afforded another proof of the extent and activity of his genius, as well as of his readiness to turn to the public account every thing that came within the sphere of his observation. In the course of his passage he formed the plan of an important commercial treatise on a subject never before attempted, and consisting of materials which had never before been made use of. The work here alluded to is his "History of the Law of Shipping and Navigation," which he published in 17.02, only six months having elapsed since his return from Newfoundland till the time of its appearance. It is impossible to conceive any subject more interesting to a great trading people than a history of the principal means by which their wealth, power, and political consequence have been acquired. But as the investigation of every branch of our maritime trade would have led the historian into a field of more space and greater variety than was necessary for his main purpose, he very properly confined himself to a review of the various acts which had been passed at different times, for the security and extension of our commerce, or for the encouragement and increase of our shipping and navigation. Our limits will not permit us to enter into an analysis of the merits of this very able and extensive work; but we subjoin a few of Mr. Reeves's closing remarks, to show how unequivocal were his opinions upon the much-contested subject of "free trade."
"Such," says he, "is the present state of the laws which the legislature has seen fit to provide for the encouragement and increase of British shipping and navigation. It is a series of restrictions and prohibitions, and it tends to the establishing of monopoly; but it is a plan of regulation which our ancestors, who were more versed in the practical philosophy of life than the speculative one of the closet, thought necessary for the welfare and safety of the kingdom. Reasoning from the self-preservation of an individual, to the self-preservation of a people, they considered the defence of this island from foreign invasion as the first law in the national policy; and judging that the dominion of the land could not be preserved without possessing that of the sea, they made every effort to procure to the nation a maritime power of its own. They wished that the merchants should own as many ships, and employ as many mariners, as possible. To induce and sometimes to force them to this application of their capital, restrictions and prohibitions were devised."
"This policy was pursued by those who came after them, in directing the public councils; and in the last century, when many institutions of our ancestors fell a sacrifice to the rage of innovation, the wisdom of the navigation system was respected, measures were even taken for rendering it more narrow and
"Experience has shown the advantage of adhering to this maritime policy. The inducement and obligation to employ British ships had the effect of increasing their number. The increase of their number became a spur to seek out employment for them Foreign trade and the fisheries were, by various expedients, made subservient to advance the interests of shipping. Trade and shipping thus contributed reciprocally to advance each other; and, thus combined, they constituted very considerable sources of national wealth."
Hitherto we have seen the subject of this memoir alternately engaged in useful study and in the discharge of official duties, and at all times dedicating the productions of his literary talents, and his legal knowledge, to the service of different parts of the empire. We are now going to behold him moving in a higher and wider sphere, embracing objects of universal importance, and successfully pursuing measures, on the issue of which depended the salvation of the state, the secure enjoyment of every thing dear to Englishmen, and the transmission of these blessings to our remotest posterity. It is scarcely necessary to say, that we allude to Mr. Reeves's becoming the founder and promoter of "Associations for protecting Liberty and Property against Republicans and Levellers."
In the course of the year 1792, the revolutionary principles by which France had been for some time so dreadfully agitated began to disclose themselves in Great Britain to a most alarming extent. Wicked ambition, grown wild by repeated disappointment, was eager for any change, and therefore resolved to pull down, if possible, the pillars of the state, at the hazard of being crushed to death under its ruins. Other characters, no less desperate, being equally void of principles and of property, longed for some general convulsion, in which, if they could not repair their shattered fortunes, they hoped, at least, to enjoy the hellish consolation of seeing the great and the good levelled to an equality of distress with themselves. The secret motives of all these parties were concealed under the show of the most ardent zeal for the public good. By ten thousand modes of delusion, they found dupes and proselytes in every corner of the kingdom; and whereever they gained ground they did not fail to establish clubs, for the purpose of disseminating their baleful doctrines.
Such was the alarming career of sedition, at the time of Mr. Reeves's return from his second voyage to Newfoundhmd. The very day after his arrival he had a consultation on the subject with a small party of his legal friends, eminent both in character and in station. At this meeting it was determined that the most proper antidote to be opposed to the prevailing poison of the day, was that which counter-associa