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as morals, the first step towards amendment is a consciousness of former errors.
It is not our intention to investigate narrowly the causes which have operated so beneficial a change in the sentiments of the legislature. We shall abstain also from inquiring how it happens, that it should fall to Mr. Peel's lot to execute what Lord Bacon projected. Mr. Horace Twiss is of opinion that the revision of the law has "waited chiefly for a season of such tranquillity and prosperity as the present; but, perhaps, it might be possible to discover in the history of the last two centuries a period of equal tranquillity and prosperity. The truth seems to be, that Mr. Peel has in the present instance merely yielded to the impulse of public opinion, which never was more strongly expressed upon any subject than upon the necessity of a reform in the laws. The genius of Lord Bacon outstripped the age in which he lived. He was born to instruct a nation: Mr. Peel has the inferior merit of deriving his instruction from the nation; but no sounder or more salutary principle of action in a minister can well be conceived.
Be the cause, however, what it may, we are satisfied with the assurance that a very extensive re-organization of the law is on the eve of its accomplishment. A general idea of the proposed work may be gathered from Mr. Peel's speech, although the characteristic caution of the Right Hon. gentleman has prevented him from disclosing more than was necessary for his immediate occasions. Certain preparatory labours are also partially before the public. We shall watch with solicitude, and examine with scrupulous care, every step in the progress of so important an undertaking; and even in this early stage of the proceeding, it may not be impertinent to offer a few observations upon the general bearings of the subject, and upon those publications connected with it, which have recently made their appearance.
In the prosecution of the intended reform, so much must obviously depend upon the character of the agents employed, upon their inclination as well as their means, that it is important to consider what persons may be most advantageously entrusted with the conduct of the work, so as to insure its adequate fulfilment, and to secure the nation against the illusory patchwork of expedients. The appointment of a parliamentary commission, a course sanctioned by many precedents, has been recommended on the present occasion. If the object in view were to collect a body of evidence upon a particular point, or to ascertain the feelings and sentiments of a particular class, we might, perhaps, be disposed to place some reliance on the labours either of a Select Committee in Parliament, or of a commission out of doors; although such appointments have but too often served as a mere cloak to apathy or hostility. But where the deliberation is to extend over a wide
and varied surface, where the task requires an intensity and continuity of exertion, a laborious attention to minutiæ, and the nicest discrimination in separating the essential from the accidental, the principle from the abuse, a multitude of counsellors,' with the best possible disposition, would be calculated rather to embarrass than to facilitate the process. Committees and commissions may be useful auxiliaries; they may prepare the way for ulterior measures; but it is very rare that any work of national importance can be committed to their exclusive management with advantage. the year 1796, several committees have sat upon different branches of the Law of England; witnesses have been examined; masses of information collected; voluminous reports drawn up, describing in forcible language the lamentable and disgraceful imperfections of our code; but all these demonstrations, instead of leading to any comprehensive plan of amendment, have terminated in certain petty reforms, useful perchance in themselves, but supremely ridiculous, when contrasted with the solemn preparation which ushered them in. The result has too often reminded us of the words of Sir Matthew Hale:-"Only to save their credits upon such occasions they meddle with some little inconsiderable things, as they set the price upon turnips and carrot seed; but nothing is dared to be done of use and importance."
We regard it, therefore, as no inconsiderable advantage gained to the cause, that Mr. Peel has himself undertaken the task of superintending the alterations in the law. He has the benefit of the suggestions of statesmen, lawyers, and philanthropists, from the days of Bacon downwards. He has also the benefit of modern discussions on the subject, and of those valuable results which wisdom can draw from the collision of opinions. His official situation enables him to command the services of those who are best qualified to give him every requisite information, and to work out the details of the measure. It is impossible also that we should shut our eyes to the fact, that as a Minister he can effect greater good with fewer obstacles than any other person or body of men. This circumstance alone will, in a great degree, disarm cavilling opposition, and lull the terrors of the alarmists. It will give the character of prudence and discretion to propositions, which, unsanctified by the odour of office, would run the risk of being denounced as most perilous innovations.
That Mr. Peel is not a lawyer appears to us rather a matter of congratulation than regret. Without denying that there have existed, and do exist, lawyers distinguished for the enlargement of their views, and the liberality of their opinions, it is not too much to assert, that professional habits have a natural tendency to narrow the comprehension, blunt the perceptions, and give a sinister bias to the mind extremely unfavourable to the progress of
improvement. The forms and phraseology of business, modes of practice, fictions, &c. things unessential in themselves, become endeared to the lawyer by the force of education, and the charm of custom. A thousand interesting associations gather around them, and invest them with a factitious importance. The agreeable recollections of difficulties surmounted, of knowledge painfully acquired, of professional triumphs, all serve to hallow a system connected in the lawyer's apprehension with every idea of present emolument and future advancement. We question whether even Sir Samuel Romilly, notwithstanding the general accuracy of his mind, and his ready perception of the defective state of the criminal law, was fully sensible of the many gross blemishes and abuses that disfigured the proceedings of the Court in which he himself praclised. "By long use and custom, mcn, especially that are aged, and have been long educated in the profession and practice of the law, contract a kind of superstitious veneration of it beyond what is just and reasonable. And it happens to them, as it doth to the Romanists in point of religion, in relation to ancient rites and ceremonies transmitted to them from their ancestors, that though they become overburthensome by their multitude, or ridiculous by their vanity or impertinency, or antiquated by the alteration of the ends and uses for which they were at first instituted or introduced; yet they are zealously retained, though to the apparent detriment and oppression of religion itself. And accordingly it happens to these men in point of laws." These are the words of no experimental theorist, no rash innovator, no contemner of established maxims; they are the words of Sir M. Hale himself, who, although he could conscientiously burn ancient dames for witchcraft, was not possessed of sufficient credulity to regard the laws and judicial proceedings of his own day as faultless; or of sufficient insincerity to deny that, by the obstinate prejudices of the profession to which he belonged, "forms, and proceedings, and practices, were tenaciously and rigorously maintained, which had become not only useless and impertinent, but burthensome and inconvenient, and prejudicial to the common justice and the common good of
In carrying the proposed improvements into effect, it is clear that the technical parts of the work not only may but must of necessity be entrusted to lawyers. But this can be attended with no danger, so long as the superintending management rests in other hands. The strong sense of Mr. Peel, unwarped by professional prepossessions, will operate as a wholesome corrective to those attachments which his subordinate agents may still cherish for the uncouth shape and garb of "old father antick, the law;" and direct the powers of legal subtlety and lcgal learning to the most useful and legitimate of all objects, elucidation and simplification.
With these preliminary remarks, we shall proceed to notice the publications enumerated at the head of our article. Mr. Hammond's labours, connected as they are with Mr. Peel's plan, or rather forming a part of it, are the first to demand our consideration. Mr. Hammond has been long known to the profession as the author of several practical treatises and works of reference, indicating great patience and assiduity, and an extensive range of legal reading. In 1823, he published his " Digest and Consolidation of the Law of Forgery," being a portion of a new Criminal Code, in the formation of which he was engaged; and to this is appended a " Scheme of the Digest of the Laws of England," which we shall have occasion to notice more particularly hereafter. The Law of Forgery, is introduced by a preface of no ordinary pretension;-we speak of that part of it which we have the good fortune to understand; for there is this peculiarity of style in most of Mr. Hammond's publications, that the sentences are not always intelligible. In this preface, the writer informs us that "he is now compelled distinctly to assert that, with the exception of his own, no plan for consolidating the Statute Law, or any thing approaching to one, has ever been proposed, neither by Lord Chancellor Bacon, Sir Francis Bacon, nor by any other person." To which he adds, that "to unfold to a greater extent that prospect which another has opened up, is a very easy task." What it was that compelled the writer to make the above bold assertion, and thus inhumanly triumph over Lord Chancellor Bacon, and Sir Francis Bacon to boot, is more than we can conjecture. There are persons, however, who may imagine that Sir Francis Bacon himself opened up' (we use Mr. Hammond's expression) the grand principle of consolidation in his fourth proposition, for "the reforming and re-compiling of the Statute Law;" in which he recommended the "reducing of concurrent statutes, heaped one upon another, to one clear and uniform law." And it is not improbable that Lord Chancellor Bacon may have coincided with Sir Francis Bacon. As to the task of executing such a project, we confess that it must be laborious in the extreme, and require great nicety and precision; but there is nothing in it which a digester of the Term Reports might not with due diligence compass. We must be understood to speak here merely of consolidation ;-the province of amending demands more exalted powers.
Mr. Hammond's Law of Forgery' reminds us of the Frenchman's economical treatment of a leg of mutton, as described by Prior: Dimanche, une eclanche ;-lundi, frole et salade;— mardi, j'aime la grillade;-mercredi, hachée ;-,eudi, bonne pour la capillotade,' &c. The only difference is, the whereas the leg of mutton may be supposed to have gradually dwindled in size in
the course of its transmigrations; the Law of Forgery,' on the contrary, has become more bulky in each successive change. First, it appeared in a simple octavo form, published by Butterworth, with the trimmings of Preface,' and Scheme.' The next shape which it assumed was that of a Parliamentary Report. In 1824 a Select Committee of the House of Commons was appointed to consider the expediency of consolidating and amending the Criminal Law of England. The Report of the Committee is in the following words :
"Your Committee having called before them Anthony Hammond, Esq., of the Inner Temple, he submitted to them the Papers marked Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4, which form the Appendix to this Report; and having maturely considered the same, your Committee came to the following Resolutions: "RESOLVED, 1.-That it is the opinion of this Committee, that it is expedient that the Statutes relating to the Criminal Law should be consolidated under their several heads.
"Resolved, 2.—That the Chairman be directed to move for leave to bring in Bills, pursuant to the above Resolution, consolidating the Criminal Law, without any amendment or alteration.
"RESOLVED, 3.-That it is expedient that certain omissions and anomalies in the present state of the Criminal Law be brought under the consideration of the House, with a view to remedy the same by legislative provisions.
"RESOLVED, 4.-That the Chairman be directed to move for leave to bring in Bills, supplying such omissions, and remedying the existing anomalies; such amending Bills to be wholly distinct from the Consolidating Bills. "April 2, 1824."
This is the entire body of the Report. Then comes the Appendix, consisting of Mr. Hammond's Law of Forgery,' which fills 360 folio pages. This work is distinguished from the former, by the circumstance that its matter is somewhat differently arranged; that it contains all the author's learning upon the subject, in the shape of notes;-that it also contains the "Draft of a Bill to consolidate, amend, and declare the Law of Forgery; and the process of consolidation, of which the author is marvellously proud. Prefixed to it there are certain introductory observations, displaying some of Mr. Hammond's views on the Principles of Criminal Law, which we shall examine at the same time that we examine his Scheme.'
The next transformation which the Law of Forgery' undergoes is still more imposing. In 1826 it issues from the Government Press, decorated with all the embellishments which type and Paper can confer, and stamped with the seal of the demigod authority. Copies are distributed to all the great public bodies and libraries; and it is in short to be considered as forming part of an important national work. To explain this we must have recourse to Mr. Hammond's Letter to the Members of the differ