English fist, deprecated most earnestly any such proceeding. With much difficulty I induced my friend to go away, and I received for my successful interference a shake by the hand more expressive of gratitude than I ever experienced before.

There is a society here, called the Misericordia Society, of which I have heard the following account, but do not know if it is accurate. It is composed of men of the highest rank, whose business it is, in case of accident or sudden death, to assemble at the sound of a bell, and render what assistance may be necessary. That there may be no personal ostentation, they wear black masks. I met about a dozen of them the other day, bearing a dead body through the streets. They were all dressed in black dominos, and, as it rained, in very broad slouched hats. They never spoke, and relieved one another in carrying with great dexterity and quickness. Their step struck me as unusually majestic, probably from their dress, and the solemnity of their occupation. It was a very imposing sight. I am told that sometimes the Grand Duke himself goes out and assists.

It is very, very cold here—much colder than I ever felt it in England. The air is so thin, and the wind often so strong, that it seems literally to blow through one. The men constantly wear cloaks, ordinarily hanging open, but the moment they come upon the wind, they throw them over the left shoulder, and carefully cover their mouths. The houses are contrived with reference to hot weather, and are very comfortless to English feeling at this season. After dinner we often sit in our travelling cloaks, with napkins put upon our heads like judges' wigs, which is very

efficacious. The streets are kept extremely clean, not, I apprehend, so much from a love of cleanliness, as from economy of manure to keep up the very high cultivation of the surrounding country.

Florence abounds with palaces of a severe and prison-like appearance, built for defence by her grandees in turbulent but highly interesting times—the very opposite of the peace, security, and dulness, which reign at present. Then all the faculties of the soul were called into action, and virtues and vices were both prominent. Now everything is decent in appearance through the watchfulness of the government; but the absence of all political interest necessarily reduces the moral standard to a low level—so that we may almost say here, with Hamlet,

6. What is a man, If his chief good, and market of his time Be but to sleep and feed ? a beast, no more. Sure, he that made us with such large discourse, Looking before, and after, gave us not That capability and God-like reason To rust in us unus'd.”

No. XI.- WEDNESDAY, JULY 29, 1835.

OFFICE OF CORONER. The longer my experience and contemplation of our ancient political institutions, the greater is my admiration of the wisdom of their original principles, and the more ardent my desire to see their complete adaptation to present circumstances. Amongst the offices derived from the common law, there is none more consonant with English principles, or which is calculated to be more efficient, than that of Coroner. He is elected by the freeholders, and acts only with the assistance of a jury. I think if the office were newly regulated, it would greatly promote the public welfare, and save a great deal of legislation, which can never produce equally beneficial results. The election at present is eminently exposed to the objection alluded to in the article on parochial government in my fourth number, namely, “ that the relation between the electors and the elected is too slight to make the electors sufficiently careful in their choice.”

The coroner for a part of a county is elected by the freeholders of the whole, and consequently the majority, feeling no public interest in their votes, give them to serve private ends. This has led

much to the practice of making the office a provision for persons unsuccessful in their profession, and whom their friends spare no activity thus to disburthen themselves of. I do not say that it is by any means always so; but it certainly happens sufficiently often to degrade the office, and to give it a tone and influence below what its very important duties entitle it to. The number of coroners, within my recollection, of inferior capacity and discretion, has always been very great, and I believe solely from the reason above assigned. The inferiority of coroners has naturally led to a corresponding inferiority of juries, except in very particular cases : a defect which the more enlightened must feel it difficult to overcome, on account of the established practice. The frequently enormous and unnecessary expense of elections, too, must have tended to furnish a sort of justification for pecuniary laxity, quite inconsistent with impartial justice, and to which there are peculiarly strong temptations. The remedy for this defect in election is only to be found by confining the right of voting to the district over which the coroner is to preside, as lately contemplated, and by making each district of a reasonable extent. A higher class of coroners would no doubt produce a higher class of jurors, though the coroners do not select; but if that should not be the result, it might easily be accomplished by other means.


One circumstance, which renders the coroner's inquest much less beneficial than it is capable of being, is the practice of imposing nominal or trifling fines, by way of deodands. This practice, I apprehend, has arisen, in a great measure, from the deodand being payable to the King, or to his grantee, generally the lord of the manor. Such application is too remote in the first case, and unsatisfactory in the second ; and therefore I think the rights of the Crown should be transferred, and those of individuals be purchased for the little they have become worth. If the fines were made payable to some public and local fund of acknowledged utility, the intention of imposing them, which is for the punishment and prevention of neglect, would not be frustrated, as it now is. The intention and the application would both be manifestly for the public benefit.

Notwithstanding the defects which have crept into the administration of the coroner's duties, I think, so far as crime has been concerned, inquests have, for the most part, been tolerably efficient; but that may be said to be almost the least important part, inasmuch as the same investigation may be made, and often is, by justices of the peace. It is with reference to loss of life by accidents, that a new practice is more particularly required, and it is of more importance than perhaps at first sight may appear. The great majority of fatal accidents, I believe, would be found, if strictly investigated, to be the consequences, directly or indirectly, of neglect, or of culpable disregard of the interest of others, from parsimony, or some other selfish motive. If, then, in all cases of accidental death, a searching inquiry were entered into by a coroner of high character and great acuteness, assisted by intelligent and respectable jurors, and fines were imposed in proportion to the degree of blame discovered, a great improvement as to general safety and convenience must be the consequence. For instance, if it were found that the death of a labourer, by falling from a scaffold, might have been prevented by a better construction, and a moderate fine were imposed, with an intimation that any similar case would in future be probably more severely treated, self-interest would soon produce the required improvement in scaffolding. In the same manner, adequate fines for death by the overturning of coaches, or by improper driving, or from accidents in mines, or from any other cause, would ensure those precautions which would be productive of great additional security and convenience. By making severe examples in cases of fatal accidents, the chances of accidents at all would be materially diminished, and this I think could in no way be so effectually accomplished as by the process of a coroner's inquest. It is a prompt inquiry by those who have the

best means of judging, and the strongest inducements to do what is right.

I subjoin a passage from Blackstone's Commentaries, show. ing what kind of officer it was originally intended the coroner should be. With the latter part of the passage, notwithstanding the authority of Sir Edward Coke, I cannot agree, as I am of opinion that it is expedient that those who serve the public should be paid by the public.

“ The coroner is chosen by all the freeholders in the county court, as by the policy of our ancient laws the sheriffs, and conservators of the peace, and all other officers were, who were concerned in matters that affected the liberty of the people. For this purpose there is a writ at common law for the election of coroner, in which it is expressly commanded the sheriff to cause such an one to be chosen as may be best qualified for the office; and in order to effect this the more surely, it was enacted by the statute of Westminster, (in the time of Edward I.,) that none but lawful and discreet knights should be chosen. But it seems it is now sufficient if a man hath lands enough to be made a knight, for the coroner ought to have an estate sufficient to maintain the dignity of his office, and answer any fines that may be set upon him for his misbehaviour; and if he hath not enough to answer, his fine shall be levied on the county, as the punishment for electing an insufficient officer. Now, indeed, through the culpable neglect of gentlemen of property, this office has been suffered to fall into disrepute, and get into low and indigent hands ; so that, although formerly no coroners would condescend to be paid for serving their country, and they were by the aforesaid statute of Westminster expressly forbidden to take a reward, under pain of a great forfeiture to the king, yet for many years past they have only desired to be chosen for the sake of their perquisites ; being allowed fees for their attendance by the statute 3 Henry VII. c. i., which Sir Edward Coke complains of heavily, though since his time those fees have been much enlarged.”

CHANGE IN COMMERCE. I have by tradition the following particulars of the mode of carrying on the home trade by one of the principal merchants of Manchester, who was born at the commencement of the last century, and who realized

sufficient fortune to keep a carriage when not half a dozen were kept in the town by persons connected with business. He sent the manufactures of the place into Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire, Cambridgeshire, and the

intervening counties, and principally took in exchange feathers from Lincolnshire, and malt from Cambridgeshire and Notting. hamshire. All his commodities were conveyed on pack-horses, and he was from home the greater part of every year, performing his journeys entirely on horseback. His balances were received in guineas, and were carried with him in his saddle-bags. He was exposed to the vicissitudes of the weather, to great labour and fatigue, and to constant danger. In Lincolnshire he travelled chiefly along bridleways through fields, where frequent gibbets warned him of his perils, and where flocks of wild fowl continually darkened the air. Business carried on in this manner required a combination of personal attention, courage, and physical strength, not to be hoped for in a deputy; and a merchant then led a much more severe and irksome life than a bagman afterwards, and still more than a traveller of the present day. Competition could but be small; but the returns from capital were not so high in reality as in appearance, because the wages of labour ought to be deducted, and probably the same exertion now would produce from the same beginnings ten times the fortune. The improvements in the mode of carrying on commerce, and its increase, may be attributed in a great degree to the increased facility of communication, and the difference between the times I have alluded to, and the present, is nearly as great as that between a pack-horse and a steam-carriage, What will be the progress fifty years hence defies calculation. I lately heard a striking instance of the advantages of steam in towing vessels. An Indiaman used sometimes to lie at Blackwall six weeks before she could get to Gravesend, because she had to wait for the combination of spring tides and a favourable wind. Now the same sized vessel could get down with certainty in three hours.

Before I conclude this article, I will relate, that in the earlier days of the merchant above mentioned, the wine-merchant who supplied Manchester resided at Preston, then always called Proud Preston, because exclusively inhabited by gentry. The wine was carried on horses, and a gallon was considered a large order. Men in business confined themselves generally to punch and ale, using wine only as a medicine, or on very extraordinary occasions ; so that a considerable tradesman somewhat injured his credit amongst his neighbours, by being so extravagant as to send to a tavern for wine even to entertain a London customer. Before Preston itself existed, in the time of the Romans, the only port in Lancashire was a few miles higher up the river Ribble, and was called Rerigonium, of which there is now scarcely any, or no trace. If I rightly recollect my reading, the

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