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Such were my convictions, while I was digging through the books of the Board of Trade, and other depositories, for the materials of my Political Annals of the Revolted Colonies, which I offered to the pub. lic, in 1780; and I was thus induced to take copies of such law opinions, as appeared, in the course of my researches. Those copies swelled, during my progress, to a bundle; and, it seemed to me, that if they were digested under heads, they might somewhat supply the juridical defects, which have been already intimated, rather than shown.
It became, at length, known, that I had made such collections of law opinions: and professional gentlemen, setting out, to the west, and to the east, to execute various offices in the juridical de. partments, desired to derive some rays of know. ledge, from the deliberate opinions of their elders, who had risen to eminence, as much by their in. tegrity, as their talents.
Such a limited use of such opinions, was said to be penurious; and, I was urged to send my col. lections to the press, as the properest mode of making such lore useful to the many, as well as to the few : it was, indeed, apparent, that such docu.
ments, lying separated in different depositories, and obscured, by meaner matters, were of very little value, and of less instruction to the governors, as they had always been to the governed: the very departments of state, which possessed such unknown treasures, could neither be much wiser, for their unconscious possession, nor in any manner regulated in their practice, by unknown precedents : Idem est non esse et non apparere was a maxim very applicable to the statesmen, who filled those departments, and could not pursue any settled policy, by those beacons, which had lighted their predecessors, on their official course. Owing to all those considerations, I have been induced, at the end of many years, to give publicity to those juridical opinions, in the hope of doing some good, by their publication, while no object of any use can be gained, by their concealment. Those opinions will do honour to the lawyers, who gave them, not only as they display a perfect knowledge of the several subjects, but evince a deliberation, and candour, which are equal to their skill. Those opinions were often given, after seeing agents, and hearing counsel, and sometimes delivered, with many qualifications, when the cases were either imperfectly stated, or the facts uncircumstantially understood. On perusing the following opinions, the more judicious reader will be apt to cry out, No country enjoys such a college of civilians, as the prerogative court supplies : neither Greece, nor Rome, in their best days, produced such municipal lawyers, as have illuminated this nation, by their learning; animated the people, by their eloquence; and dignified their profession, by their probity.
It has been my endeavour to arrange the following opinions, according to my limited notions of a just analogy; and, when it is recollected, that so great a jurist, as sir Matthew Hale, acknowledged his inability to reduce his analysis of the law to an exact logical method, censoriousness may, perhaps, think with less severity of my unskilfulness.
This multifarious subject may be properly digested under the following heads:- .
First, The KING'S PREROGATIVE abroad :
I. Of his ecclesiastical authority: · II. Of his civil authority :-This last may be again subdivided into four divisions; (1.) The king's rights ;. (2.) The king's power of taxation
over conquests; (3.) The king's grants; (4.) An anomalous exclusion of the king's prerogative, in the appointment to one office.
Secondly, of the king's general jurisdiction, abroad.
Thirdly, How far the king's subjects, who emigrate, carry with them the English law:
I. The common law:
Fourthly, of the colonial constitutions :- This head may be subdivided into six divisions: . .
I. Of the governor :
IV. Of the want of sovereignty, in the colonial legislatures :
V. Of the various modifications, which the constituted assembly admits:
VI. Of the colonial judicatures.
Seventhly, Of COMMERCE :- This head may be subdivided into four divisions :
I. Manufactures set up abroad :
II. The aets of navigation:
Eighthly, Of the law of nations ;- This head may be subdivided into two divisions : . I. Treaties :
II. The legal effects, arising from the direct in. dependence of the UNITED STATES.
Superior to all those colonial jurisdictions was the king, in his council, at Whitehall. During the first age of the colonies, from 1606 to 1640, the whole superintendence of the king was exercised, both executively, and legislatively, by the privy council.
An age of innovation and reform now began : and the jurisdiction of the privy council, within the realm, as to persons, and property, was regulated by parliament *.
But, whatever may have been taken away, at the sad commencement of the civil wars, was assumed by the parliament, which exerted every act of
* 16 Ch. I. ch. 10; i. Blacks. Com. 230-1.