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THE LAW OF ENGLAND.
they were authorised to represent his person over the the export and import of commodities; and if he found districts to which they were assigned, administering a clever artisan on his premises, he would keep him justice in his name, levying his feudal exactions on his and his services for his own use. vassals, and receiving their homage. These powerful The revival of literature was not favourable to pure feudatories were held in check by Charlemagne; but feudalism. It brought with it the study of the civil and under his successors, and the other European monarchs, canon laws, and it was through the lights so acquired it became their aim to be the independent sovereigns that the feudal customs were interpreted. The decline of the territories committed to their charge--an object of the spirit of the feudal law is matter of history, and in which they were more or less successful according to a view of it would lead to too long a digression. Not circumstances, some throwing off their master's yoke, only its effects upon society, but its literal forms, still while others made themselves intermediate superiors linger amongst us; even in republican America there between the king and his vassals. The various states is pride and boast of birth, and a knowledge of the of Italy and Germany are illustrations of the working feudal system is sometimes requisite in ascertaining the of these events. The feudatories of France made a very title to property. near approach to independent sovereignties. They possessed within their own dominions the right of coining money, that of waging private war, exemption from England has already been mentioned as an exception all tributes, except the limited feudal duties by which to the general prevalence in Europe of the civil and they acknowledged the superiority of the crown, and canon laws; not that these systems were totally refinally, freedom from legislative and judicial control pulsed, but that they met with a countervailing resist. on the part of the sovereign and his courts. The vassal, ance, which prevented them from obtaining the intiutoo, in looking after his own concerns, sometimes con- ence they possessed in other countries. This resistance quered territories not inferior to those of his lord; and may be found in the existence of a different, and, it under such circumstances there was little chance of may perhaps be said, hostile system, called the common his being an obedient retainer. The Duke of Nor- law, and to the power of parliament to make laws or mandy, the vassal of the king of France, became mo- statutes. The three great elements of the jurisprudence narch of England, and the Dukes of Burgundy were of England are the common law, the law of equity, and little less powerful.
the statute law. To these may be added, as codes From these high personages, vassalage went through limited to particular spheres, the Admiralty law and many gradations, till it reached abject slavery. There the ecclesiastical law. were the vavassors and chatelains, dependants on the higher nobility, but who themselves had large estates
Common Law, and fortified their houses. There were the burghers Speaking of the common law, Sir Matthew Hale, its of free towns, whose privileges have been already men- historian, says: “This is that law by which proceedings tioned. Of rank corresponding in the rural districts, and determinations in the king's ordinary courts of were the socage-holders, and the class so well known in justice are directed and guided. This directs the course England by the designation yeomen. The lowest grade of descents of lands, and the kinds, the natures, and were the villeins or serfs, to whom was committed the the extents and qualifications of estates; therein, also, task of tilling the lands which the soldier gained or the manner, forms, ceremonies, and solemnities of protected. It was the characteristic of the other grades transferring estates from one to another; the rules of of feudality to impose duties upon the lord, corre- settling, acquiring, and transferring of properties; the sponding to those of the vassal, but the villein had forms, solemnities, and obligations of contracts; the little power to exact performance of these regulations. rules and directions for the exposition of wills, deeds, There were grades, however, oven among the serfs, and acts of parliament; the process, proceedings, judgthough probably there were not instances in which one ments, and executions of the king's ordinary courts of held of another as vassal and superior. The peculiarity justice; the limits, bounds, and extent of courts, and of the class was, that they were astricted to the domain, their jurisdictions; the several kind of temporal offences and went with it when it changed hands. Some, how and punishments at common law, and the manner of ever, had rights and privileges which they might main the application of the several kinds of punishments; tain in the court of the manor of their lord. Some held and infinite more particulars, which extend themselves small estates, which, however, they could not dispose as large as the many exigencies in the distribution of of. The lowest class were as abject and unprivileged the king's ordinary justice require.' as the slaves of the Romans.
The origin of this system--one of the most interestThe different classes of feudal taxes have been mening subjects of modern investigation-is involved in tioned above. There were others, however, of a more deep obscurity. Its progress subsequently to the miscellaneous nature, which were chiefly encroachments reign of Edward I., who has been called the English on the purer spirit of feudality, dictated by despotism Justinian, is pretty accurately noticed ; but when an and cupidity. It was upon the vassals who approached unprofessional inquirer reads those portions of Eng. nearest to the state of villeinage that these innovations lish law-books which attempt to carry the history to naturally fell most heavily. They were designated ‘aids,' an earlier period, he cannot help feeling disappointed and were demanded by the lord on any occasion which at the unsatisfactory result. The more marked feacaused him outlay. If he had to make war with a tures of the system were, doubtless, the customs of neighbour, or to portion off a relation in marriage, or the Anglo-Saxons. A collection of the laws of Eng. to ransom a son, he demanded an aid. Aids were pro- | land during the heptarchy, or laws of the Anglofusely exacted by the knights who joined in the Cru- Saxons, was published by an eminent antiquary at sades. In England, the aids that might be exacted, the commencement of the eighteenth century; but were restricted by Magna Charta to three : they were there is great reason to believe that they were written for the purpose of making the lord's eldest son a knight, some centuries after the Conquest; while the fraginents for marrying his eldest daughter, and for redeeming of Anglo-Saxon legislation which they contain refer his person from prison. By exactions in a different chiefly to the arrangement of the military force, the form, the more servile vassals were fleeced and kept clergy, and other matters of general or police regulain subjection. The superior, if he built a mill, astricted tion, which, in the present instance, are less interesting all his vassals to grind their grain at it, compelling them than a little insight into the laws relating to private to pay a tax for the service they were forced to receive. rights would be. Alfred and Edgar have acquire He compelled them to assist in making roads and much fame for having collected and arranged the laws building bridges, and he exacted tolls of all below the of their predecessors, reformed them where they were degree of freeholders who crossed them-a system which impolitic, and completed them where deficient; but placed impediments in the way of vassals escaping from it would be difficult to determine their exact merits. place to place. He obtained tolls and duties, too, on Edward the Confessor enjoys a similar reputation. To
him, indeed, history supplies us with good ground for favourite object of veneration both with the aristocracy referring equitable laws, for we find that when the and the people, and Sir Edward Coke reckons no less people complained against the oppression of the Norman than thirty different occasions on which it was ratified. kings, they demanded the good old laws of Edward the Civil liberty may be defined as the permission of such Confessor.' It is probable, however, that the compli- an amount of free action as it is most conducive to the ment did not apply to him so much in the capacity of welfare of all that each individual should possess. This a legislator as that of the last of the Saxon kings. is one of the most important objects of the laws, and the
Whatever may have been the exact nature of the circumstances which conduce to its existence are among laws of the Anglo-Saxons, the Conquest effectually in the most interesting in legal history. In England, the corporated thein with the feudal system, and the con- progress of liberty has been in a great measure attrinection between vassal and superior became one of the buted to the division of interests in the country. The most important features of the common law. It is not crown had an interest in checking the power of the great to be supposed, however, that this was the earliest visit nobility. That the exercise of this power was essential of feudal institutions to Britain. The Saxons could not to the liberty that has existed in England, is apparent well escape the influence of a system which had deeply in contemplating the state of France and Germany, rooted itself among the kindred nations of the continent; where the aristocracy made themselves either quite and many feudal institutions are to be found existing or nearly independent of the crown, and revelled in under the Saxon kings. The increase of the spirit of the tyranny of their despotic wills unchecked. A very feudalism under the sway of William the Conqueror important blow to the power of the aristocracy was was, however, so great, that many authors have attri- accomplished by Edward 1. in 1290, by the abolition of buted its origin in England to the era of the Conquest. the system of sub-feuing. From that day, no vassal of It was then, indeed, that it became oppressive. The the crown could grant lands to be held of himself, as conqueror brought with him the system of his own pro- he may to this day in Scotland—he could only put a vince, for which he was a vassal to the king of France, new vassal in his own place, as an adherent of the and could not admit the possession of landed property crown. There is evidence that a similar law was passed in England, except as held from himself in the capacity in Scotland, but the crown was not strong enough to of lord paramount. The greater nobles--chiefly the enforce an enactment which deprived the aristocracy of Conqueror's companions in arms--naturally held the the privilege of being petty sovereigns. The disputes lands he liberally bestowed on them of him as superior, with the church were not without their service. The and they compelled all who lived upon their lands, or attempts of the ecclesiastics to urge the claims of their even in their neighbourhood, to acknowledge them as Roman and canon laws, caused the common lawyers to liege lords. The forcible increase of such a system as isolate themselves from the slavish doctrines of these the feudal law could not but be attended with acts of systems, and to resist their encroachment with true great oppression. These were added to by the selfish professional hatred. It was in the universities of magnificence of the princes, who cleared large tracts course that the clergy had their chief influence; and of country of inhabitants, that they might enjoy the the students of the common law formed themselves into regal pleasures of the chase in undisturbed tranquillity. rival institutions, from which originated the Inns of The Saxons had their own county courts, but the Court. Then there was in the boroughs a separate ingreater part of the causes were, after the Conquest, terest, powerfully pointing towards freedom, and posremored from them to be pleaded in the court of the sessed of an influence not to be despised. The tendency monarch, which attended on his own person. Legal of all these circumstances seems to have been, a gradual proceedings were conducted in the Norman dialect of return to Saxon freedom, and a fixing of the common the French, which was afterwards changed into Latin. law in conformity with the long-cherished feelings of The use of a tongue unknown to the people at large the English people. continued down to the days of Oliver Cromwell, and That strong-minded and clear-headed man Edward I., at the Restoration was restored, with some other ab- whose ambition was so heavy a curse to his neighbours, surd practices. It was abolished in as far as respects took a great stride in the establishment of the common the proceedings of the courts in 1730.
law. Of his reforms, as enumerated by Blackstone, The charters that were so often granted by the ear- we give the following specimens: He established, lier kings to the importunity of their subjects, were confirmed, and settled the Great Charter and Charter partially restrictions of the tyranny of the feudal law, of Forests. He gave a mortal wound to the encroachand partially promises to adhere to the old Saxon cus- ments of the pope and his clergy, by limiting and estab. toms-promises which would not have been so often lishing the grounds of ecclesiastical jurisdiction; and exacted if they had not been continually broken. The by obliging the ordinary, to whom all the goods of most celebrated of these is that conceded by King John, intestates at that time belonged, to discharge the debts called Magna Charta, or the Great Charter. Its privi- of the deceased. He defined the limits of the several leges are in a great measure constitutional, and it has temporal courts of the highest jurisdiction--those of the often been said that it was procured for the advantage King's Bench, Common Pleas, and Exchequer-so as of the aristocracy, and not of the people; but it is not they might not interfere with each other's proper busiwithout stipulations in favour of the latter, protecting ness; to do which they must now have recourse to a them both from the crown and from the nobility. It fiction, very necessary and beneficial in the present restricts the tyrannical forest laws, and the arbitrary enlarged state of property. He settled the boundaries exactions by feudal lords from their vassals. The of the inferior courts in counties, hundreds, and manors, clause which has attracted chief interest, however, is confining them to causes of no great amount, according that which says that no freeman shall be affected in to their primitive institution, though of considerably his person or property, save by the legal judgment of greater than by the alteration of the value of money his peers, or by the law of the land. Leyal writers they are now permitted to determine. He secured the have found a stately tree of liberty growing out of the property of the subject by abolishing all arbitrary taxes, seed planted by this simple sentence. They discover in and talliages levied without consent of the national it the origin of that judicial strictness which has kept council. He guarded the common justice of the kingdom the English judges so close to the rules laid down for from abuses, by giving up the royal prerogative of them in the books and decisions of their predecessors. sending mandates to interfere in private causes. Не The judgment by peers is said to refer to jury trial, instituted a speedier way for the recovery of debts, by and it is urged that the whole clause strikes against granting execution, not only upon goods and chattels, arbitrary imprisonments, and involves the principle of but also upon lands, by writ of elegit, which was of the habeas corpus, by which every man, whose liberty is signal benefit to a trading people; and upon the same restricted, may demand to be brought before some com- commercial ideas, he also allowed the charging of lands petent court, in order that he may be either convicted in a statute merchant, to pay debts contracted in trade, or liberated. The Grent Charter has always been a l contrary to all feudal principles.' This last-mentioned reform refers to measures for enabling a creditor to get | valent, with whom there was no effectual competitor, possession of his debtor's land in payment of his debt. while the estate was adjudged to the purchaser. How opposed such a remedy would be to feudal prin. The repositories of the common law are the treatises ciples may easily be conceived; and the boldness with of eminent lawyers and the reports of decisions. Of which Edward made his reforms will be felt when it is the former, there are several of the thirteenth and considered that what he had thus commenced was only fourteenth centuries-Glanvil, Bracton, Hengham, and completed in 1833. If the debt of a landed proprietor the book called Fleta, the authorship of which is unwere not substantiated by some bond or other docu- known. Lyttleton's treatise on Tenures, the work of a ment, his land could not be applied in payment of it more matured system, was long the text-book in the on his decease ; and it was only in that year that practice of the feudal law. It was in the humble form landed property was made fully available for simple of a comment on this work, that the great Chief-Justice contract debts. The statement that Edward imposed Coke issued the vast treasury of legal learning so fami. limits on ecclesiastical jurisdictions, refers to the au- liarly known as “Coke upon Lyttleton,' a book which thority which the clergy arrogated regarding wills, is in itself an almost inexhaustible subject of study to already mentioned under the head of the canon law. the lawyer. The next great name is Blackstone, a man Edward allowed them the charge of the deceased's who brought elegant accomplishments to bear on the effects, but compelled them to einploy the money in austere drudgery of the law, and wrote a book, the clear paying his debts.
perspicuity of which has made many men acquainted From the period when we discover any branch of the with the laws of their country who would have othercommon law in existence, we find its observance rigo- wise remained profoundly ignorant of them. The book rously enforced by the judges. Of course, they hau has one great defect, that, professing to be not merely very frequently, as society progressed, to apply it to an exposition of the laws but an estimate of their worth, the wants of an age very different from that in which it it bestows indiscriminate eulogy on all the vices of the was invented; but, in doing so, instead of directly alter- system as well as its advantages. The reverential eye ing the law, which they always viewed as beyond their with which English lawyers look upon whatever is power, they accomplished the change by a manoeuvre ancient in the common law, is singularly apparent in almost peculiar to the law of England, called a the majority of law-books. If any great authority, such fiction. A fiction may be defined to be the taking for as Coke or Blackstone, has treated of a particular subgranted that a thing has been done which has not been ject, whoever afterwards writes upon it seems to be done, and acting accordingly. For instance, if a man held bound to incorporate all that he has said, not only had taken an article in loan or on hire, and refused in spirit, but in words. As the passages are not marked to give it up to the owner, the legal remedy, by the as quoted, the effect is a very peculiar one ; for the common law, was a very complicated one. In the case, reader, after perusing a few sentences in the easy flow however, where a man had found another's property of the nineteenth century, finds himself unexpectedly which he refused to restore, there was a very expedi- entangled in the quaint language of the reign of James tious and distinct remedy. It occurred to lawyers, that I., without the slightest hint that he is going to get, the kind of process used in this latter case was the very not the statement of the author himself, but something thing that would be most suitable for the other; and taken from Coke or Spelman. Of the reports of cases therefore, when they brought an action against a person there is now a rast collection. From the time of Ed. who thus wrongfully detained the goods of another, they ward I. to that of llenry VIII., they were annually col. stated that he had found them, and the judges, agreeing lected by officers appointed for the purpose, and were in the propriety of the form of action being applied to called year-books. They have latterly been published
would not allow the party to show that by private reporters. As they are all precedents for there was no finding in the case. Hence the well- guidance in succeeding cases, and therefore the source known action of trover, from the French trourer, to to which the public look for the interpretation of the find. Some curious illustrations of fictions of law will laws they must obey, it may be questioned whether be given when we describe the method in which the they should not be officially recorded by persons recourts acquired their jurisdiction.
sponsible for the accuracy of their reports. This plan Fictions were not, however, the only means by which has to a certain extent been adopted in America. the judges, while adhering apparently to the letter of the law, could adjust it to their own views of the wants
Law of Equity. of society. A far-seeing judge who looked forward to The peculiar strictness with which the common law the probable rise of a new system of transactions, could, was administered, gave rise to the other great diviby a swaying of the principles of the law that might be sion of English jurisprudence - the law of equity. quite imperceptible at the moment, adapt them to the This was originally a system by which relief was given new exigencies. It was thus that Lord Mansfield, with in cases where a strict interpretation of the common out the aid of statute, created the law of insurance. law would have produced injustice. It could look to There are frequently many underwriters, or insurers the influence of accidents and frauds when common to a policy; and had the practice been as it was, each law could not. A deed, for instance, was lost. The would have had to be prosecuted separately on the common law courts could hear nothing about what occasion of a loss; but Mansfield, by a very slight might have been its contents. They could see nothing, divergence from previous practice, brought all the know nothing, act on nothing, but the express words of claims in a policy into one action-an expedient with the deed as set before them; and as that could not be out which the system as it at present stands could found, the party must suffer. Here the court of equity not have existed. This was accomplished by a rule came to his relief, by compelling a ' discovery of the of court known by the name of the Consolidation Rule, contents of the document. "When a trustee was put in by which all the actions except one is stayed, on the possession, common law could not look at him in any various defendants becoming bound to abide by the other light but as holding for his own behoof; but issue of that action. In their covert efforts to change equity compelled him to do his duty to his employers. the laws, the judges did not spare even acts of parlia- Where an obligation was to pay, common law could ment. They managed to hit a blow at the power of the comprehend its nature and exact performance, but if it aristocracy, by limiting the operation of the statute of was to perform any other act, the assistance of equity entails. When the holder of the entailed estate wished was generally necessary. Again, the courts of law to sell it, he let the buyer bring an action against him, might give a remedy for a mischief after it had been alleging that he had no title. He said he had bought perpetrated, but they could not interfere to prevent it. the property from some one--usually the crier of the This necessary branch of legal administration came court-whose duty it was to support his title. The likewise within the jurisdiction of the judge in equity, crier being called in, made default, and was nominally who, on cause shown, could issue his . injunction.' adjudged to give the holder under the entail an equi. The origin of this system is as obscure as that of the
common law, though it is evidently of a more modern the House of Lords amend such a measure, for the date, having been introduced as a remedy to the evils House of Commons to refuse to take it into consideraof the latter. The earlier law-books do not mention it, tion again, and to authorise their speaker to throw it and it was probably long in operation as a sort of ex- over the table. About seventy years ago, in the case ception to the ordinary course of law, before lawyers of a bill for the protection of game, the House of Lords would acknowledge it as a system. Its most plausible thought fit to raise the penalties higher than those origin is simply this -- that when a person suffered a sanctioned by the lower house, and as the money went manifest injury which the ordinary courts could not to the exchequer, the commons considered this an inremedy, he applied for redress to the sovereign in per- fringement of their privileges, and acted accordingly. son. The king's conscience-keeper, or chaplain, became All measures involving taxation originate in what is the referee on these occasions, and what he did he called “a committee of supply,' in which the house is sealed, by way of testiniony of the royal authority, with presumed to be sitting, not to debate great questions, the king's seal. Hence the origin of the lord chancellor but simply to transact pecuniary business. In the case with his great seal, whose office, in this form, has been of the introduction of any ordinary bill, amending the traced, or imagined to be traced, so far back as the law, into the House of Commons, the first stage is, to days of Edward the Confessor. In early times, the obtain leave from the house to bring it in.' In the chancellors were ecclesiastics, and they thus were in House of Lords, a member may move a bill without the habit of adjusting their equity, and the form in previously obtaining leave. On a bill being brought which they administered, it to the civil law. This occa- in, the next step is the first reading: A member moves sioned great feuds with the common law courts, which that it be read a first time. If there be a party in at the commencement of the seventeenth century raged the house bitterly opposed to the principle of the measo fierce, that in a case where a remedy was sought sure, it may be opposed in this stage, and a debate in equity from the proceedings of the Court of King's and division will of course ensue. If the objections be Bench, the lawyers who conducted the proceeding, and merely to the details, they are reserved for a future a master in Chancery, were indicted for an offence. opportunity. On its passing this ordeal, the bill is With the assistance of King James, whose legal no. ordered to be printed. tions were derived from the civilians, the courts of The next and principal ordeal is the second reading, equity triumphed. The great Sir Edward Coke was after which the bill is referred to a committee of then at the head of the King's Bench-a man who, the whole house to be examined. In this committee, notwithstanding his harsh and tyrannical acts, must as in a committee of supply, the body is the same in still be admired for the bravery with which he sup- every respect as that which constitutes the House of ported the strict administration of the law, however Commous, but the members are considered as having high might be the personage who wished to evade it. assembled, not to debate general questions, but to enter Whatever may have been the origin of equity, it be on a business-like examination of the various clauses came at last a fixed system of law. It is a popular of the measure. When the committee have examined mistake that a judge in equity gives his decision ac- all the clauses, the next formality is, that they report cording to what is called the general principles of to the house, and that their report be received. It is equity and justice,' without reference to strict rules. then moved that the bill be read a third time. This He is bound down by precedents and rules, and there stage is, in disputed measures, generally the last trial are many acts of parliament which regulate his pro- of party strength. If the third reading is carried, there ceedings; so that in reality equity is but a depart-is still another motion, to the effect that the bill do ment of the general system of law.
pass,' and this motion is seldom opposed. On the bill passing one house, it is conveyed to the other, where
it has to pass through the same succession of readings. We have now to speak of the third branch of the When amendments are inade on a bill after it has law-statutes, or acts of parliament. The constitu- passed through one of the houses, in that to which it tion of the legislature by which they are passed does is then sent, it must be re-transmitted to the house not belong to the present subject; it need only be where it first passed. That house may accede to the observed, that to be law, every word of an act requires amendments, and so let the bill pass; or it may reject to have the consent of the three branches of the legis- the whole measure in consequence of them; or it may, lature the sovereign, the lords, and the commons. In adhering to its first opinions, hold a conference with very early times, acts of parliament seem to have been the other house, with a view to a settlement of diffepetitions by the parliament acceded to by the sovereign. rences. When a bill has passed both houses, its next The parliament was convened to supply the king with step is the royal assent, which may be given either by money, and while it kept him in suspense, it sometimes the sovereign personally, or by commission. prepared a petition against grievances, to which a needy A bill that has received the royal assent becomes a monarch found it prudent to accede. It became a law, the operation of which commences from the moment practice for the judges, at the end of a session of par- when the consent is adhibited, unless another point of liament, to convert the substance of the petitions, or time be stated in the act. All the statutes of a session
bills, which had been acceded to by the king, into are ranked in order, according to the date at which acts. This practice was fraught with manifest danger, they have received the royal assent; and the whole set the judges having the power, when parliament had are distinguished from others by the year of the reign ceased to sit, of altering the intended provisions. To in which they have been passed. Technically, the remedy this, the plan now followed was adopted, of whole legislation of a session is called one act, and making the bill contain the exact words which it was each statute or act, according to the common accepintended should constitute the act. Singularly enough, tation of the term, is called a chapter of it. The privithe bill is still in the form of a petition, and when it lege of printing the statutes in their original state, is made an act, the only alteration which takes place is, without note or comment, is reserved to the king's or that the words. May it therefore please your Majesty' queen's printers. In the printed edition of the statutes, are struck out.
each chapter is divided into sections. This arrangeA bill may be introduced either in the House of ment has been adopted by the printers for convenience Commons or in the House of Lords. It is a rule of reference, but in the original copy of the act there tbat all bills affecting personal station - such as is no such division--the whole is a continuous manubills of attainder for treason, bills for naturalising script without break. Nor is the division into chapters foreigners, &c. --shall make their first appearance in even authoritative. The consequence is, that when a the House of Lords. The commons possess the more new act is passed, making alteration on some part of a substantial privilege of originating all bills of supply, previous one, instead of specifying the chapter and or for the levying and appropriation of taxes. The section that is altered, it describes the act vaguely, as privilege is jealously guarded, and it is usual, should an act passed in such a session, for such a purpose.
Thus, in 1839, an act was passed to alter a section of lation effectually prevents people from being able to act the Patents Act, passed in 1837. For any ordinary up to the laws, however willing they may be, and their purpose, this would have been called an act to amend protection is frequently in other people being equally the seventh section of the act 5 and 6 William IV. ignorant of the laws that are broken. Invidious inves. chapter 83; this would have led to the exact point at tigations into antiquated laws are thus occasionally once: but as there are no such things as chapters and the means of subjecting individuals to great hardships, sections known in law, the legislature could only give by bringing punishment upon them which no foresight a roundabout description, thus-An act to amend an could have averted. Hence the trade of what are act of the fifth and sixth years of the reign of his late called common informers, whose vindication of the law Majesty William IV., intituled an act to amend the has too often the effect of merely heaping calamities law touching letters-patent for inventions. Sometimes on individuals, instead of producing a uniform obser. there is a series of acts, the latter ones amending those vance of the laws. The pursuit is a very unpopular that have preceded them, so that the titles are involved one; but when laws are in every respect just and good, in almost inextricable confusion. Even where the acts it is difficult to see how the enforcement of them can are divided into sections, as they are by the printers, be other than an advantage; and it would appear to an it is found very difficult for lawyers to unravel their unprejudiced stranger to be a somewhat contradictory meaning, and to unprofessional people they are often practice, tirst to make laws, and then teach society to a sealed book. A section generally consists of but one hate and punish those who put them in force. As sentence; and as it has often to give a long narrative society advances in intelligence, the necessity for the of things that must be done, independently of circum- reform of the whole system of law, and its simplificastances, and others that must be done in particular tion into one comprehensive code, will beconie more cases, and others that may be done, but are not im- apparent, while the mode of administering the law in perative, and others that must not be done, &c., the courts will also be seen to require revision. Every. comprehension of the full meaning of the sentence thing at present indicates that we are approaching the requires a strong mental effort. Among the statutes, point when these important steps must be taken. there are individual sentences which, if printed in the type and form of an ordinary three - volume novel,
English Law Courts. would till a hundred pages.
We have now to notice the various courts of law There are some acts which are passed every session in England. The House of Lords must be menin the same terms, such as the Mutiny Act, the indem- tioned as a general court of appeal from the whole nity for neglecting to take the oaths, &c. Indepen- kingdom. There is only one set of superior judicadently of these, the statutes now passed in a single tures from which a reference may not come before it year generally fill a quarto volume of about 500 pages, in some form or other—the criminal courts of Scotvery closely printed. Besides these acts, which gene- land. The origin of parliament is connected with the rally either apply to the whole empire, or to some one great council of the feudal kings, which gave them of the great national divisions of it, there are annually advice both in legislative and judicial matters. When passed several folio volumes of statutes, called Public parliament was separated into two houses, the judicial Local Acts,' consisting of the police acts of the various business adhered in general to the upper, and, protowns, and acts for the construction and management bably at the instigation of the bishops, the Lords of harbours, turnpike roads, bridges, gas-works, water- adopted the power of administering oaths, which was not works, railways, &c. It is by virtue of legislative autho- possessed by the Commons-a circumstance which more rity only that monopolies can be constituted in such distinctly marked their judicial character. To bring cases, and that individuals can be compelled to sell | causes which have passed through the hands of learned their property for the use of public works. Hence, judges under the direct cognisance of a body consisting this is a separate branch of the statute law, comprising of clergymen, soldiers, and young men of fashion, would several hundred volumes.
be too preposterous to be practically adopted; and The necessity of consolidating together the various though the appeal is nominally taken to the House of statutes on different subjec has from time to time Lords, it is heard and decided on by one of the emi. been felt and expressed by the first legal statesmen of nent lawyers, of whom there are always several in the Britain. Lord Bacon, in whose days the statute law did house, and generally by the Lord Chancellor. Inde. not occupy a twentieth part of its present bulk, spoke pendently of their powers as judges of appeal, the with alarm of its overgrown size, and recommended Peers act as a criminal court in all cases where a peer that the whole ought to be abridged before it should of the realm is tried for a capital crime. They are become unmanageable. Already something has been formed into a temporary tribunal for the occasion, predone. The revenue acts, which occupy a large por- sided over by a judge called the Lord High Steward. tion of the statute-book, were partially consolidated This official is properly the judge, the peers acting as a in 1826. About 400 acts relating to the customs, and jury, and giving their verdict on the question of guilt. similar matters, the prevention of smuggling, regis- The directly feudal origin of this rule of ancient practration of vessels, &c., were repealed, and the new tice will be at once recognised. regulations on the various heads were consolidated The principal courts of first resort are naturally in eight acts. To these acts each subsequent session divided into courts of common law and courts of has generally made some addition ; but to prevent equity. The former are three in number: the King's or confusion from this source, a very simple remedy has Queen's Bench, the Common Pleas, and the Exchequer. been devised. When there have been several addi. Each has a chief, and four assistant judges, called tions made to an act, a new one is framed, embodying puisne or junior judges. These courts date their origin the whole contents of the old act, as altered by the to the Conquest. On feudal principles, the Norman subsequent ones, and then all previous legislation on kings called all the principal causes which had, under the subject is repealed. Thus, in 1833, all the custom- the Saxons, proceeded before the county courts, to be house acts were a second time consolidated; that is to decided in their own hall, or court, by their own great say, the acts of 1826, with the additions and altera- council, which was presided over by an officer called tions made to them by later acts, were embodied the Justiciar. This court, called the Aula Regis, or together in a set of new acts, so that no one, in con- King's Court, at first followed the king's person—& sulting the custom-house laws, can have to go farther great inconvenience, removed by Magna Charta, which back than 1833.
fixed it permanently in Westminster. Under Edward I., Measures, we believe, are in active preparation the system was adopted of sending deputations from to extend this principle to other departments. At the court twice a year to try cases in various parts of this moment there are upwards of 120 stamp-acts in the country. Under the same monarch, the jurisdicoperation, one of them as old as the reign of William tion of the court was split into three parts. To the III. The existence of these confused masses of legis- justiciar, afterwards called Chief Justice, were assigned