« PreviousContinue »
gation, and some of the Statutes relating to servants in the more extensive branches of manufacture, as falling under the cognizance of a justice of peace, were thought to be of sufficiently general interest to require their admission. Those relating to any other trades and occupations may hereafter be added if it should be found expedient: but as far as I can at present judge, the expence of such an addition would be much more considerable than its utility. Particular collections applicable to separate departments of business may be very desirable.
I have been prevented by the unexpected magnitude of the work from adding a few miscellaneous Statutes not falling within its general scope and design, such as those relating to the union with Scotland and Ireland, the alteration of the style, the offices of sheriff and coroner, the redemption of the land tax, and some others.
In forming a collection of this kind, it is difficult to fix the precise limits between the acts which it would be desirable to admit, and those which it is proper to exclude, and the decision must necessarily involve a certain degree of arbitrary discretion, upon which no two judgments would exactly coincide; but upon the great majority of cases there will, probably, not be any material difference of opinion; and I hope it will not be found, upon a review of the tables of contents, that many acts of general practical utility have been omitted, or that the bulk of the work has been much increased by those which could have been conveniently dispensed with.
In general the acts are inserted without abridgement, as they appear in the ordinary collections of the Statutes, as I felt it important to prevent the misconception of the
work being regarded as an abridgement. In any future edition it may, perhaps, be found eligible to make some retrenchments with regard to common expressions of style, the recital of former acts of parliament, and certain enactments of frequent and general occurrence, but I am inclined to think, that the saving of expence which can be effected by such a retrenchment, will not be very considerable.
Where some parts only of a Statute are applicable to the general design of the work, the others, relating to temporary or limited objects, are omitted, or only noticed by inserting the marginal abstract. In some cases the titles only are inserted, as sufficiently declaring the object of the act, as in cases of acts by which others are continued or made perpetual, or where the mention of such acts may be considered as merely pointing out, in a general manner, the course and progress of the law upon subjects in respect of which it would be foreign from the principal design of the work to include the entire contents. The mere titles of some acts of parliament would give a very erroneous or inadequate notion of their contents, but, generally speaking, I think they may be considered as sufficiently apposite.
The same difficulties which have been adverted to as affecting the selection of the contents, are, in a certain degree, applicable to their arrangement.-In the general distribution of the work I have followed, as nearly as my judgment would admit, the ordinary plan of a course of jurisprudence; but as the subjects classed in Blackstone's Commentaries, and other systems of law, under the general title of Rights of Things, are so very different in their nature and character as referable to the law of real property, and as referable to personal property and contracts, I have thought it preferable to consider them as separate divisions of the law.-The law of bankruptcy, which, in the Commentaries, is
classed as one of the modes of acquiring personal property, has been thought more properly connected with the law of civil proceedings.-The Statutes respecting the office of a justice of peace as distinguished from the general system of criminal laws, are arranged alphabetically as they occur in Burn's Justice-Several Statutes might, so far as respects the nature of their subjects, be placed in one or other of different classes without any material ground of preference - The general course which has been adopted with regard to these has been to insert them in the earliest part of the work to which they have a sufficient relation : on this account the Statutes respecting gaming, usury, stock jobbing, and the sale of offices, are inserted in part III. as affecting the validity of the contract, rather than in part V. as forming a branch of criminal law. For the same reason, the Statute of Frauds, and the Act For the Amendment of the Law, whieh contain a greater variety of miscellaneous subjects under a common title, than any others in the collection, are included in the class of miscellaneous Statutes concerning real estates. Where any motive of convenience has appeared to require it, the title of the Statute is mentioned in each of the several classes to which it has relation, with proper references to the place of its insertion.-And in some few instances, particular clauses of an act are inserted in the class to which they relate, the act at large being inserted elsewhere.-Where provisions applicable to several distinct and independent subjects included in the same act are sufficiently designated by. the title (which principally occurs in the Statutes of George the Second, and, in some instances, with a very ludicrous combination of subjects) they have been considered as if they were completely separate acts, and are arranged accordingly, so far as the respective subjects fall within the general plan of the collection.-The several classes being placed in the more general divisions of the work according to the nature and character of
their principal contents, the particular acts are assigned to their respective classes, although they may not be referable to the same general division.-On this account the Statutes respecting Wales are placed in the part of the work appropriated to civil proceedings, although some of the particular numbers are foreign to that department of the law. The Statutes respecting juries are included in the same part, although some of them relate solely to criminal law.-The Statutes respecting game and fish are all included in the sixth part as relating to the authority of justices of peace, although some of them, as the late acts respecting deer stealing and oyster fisheries, are not immediately the object of such authority, and there are a few other instances of a similar nature. In some respects a chronological arrangement might be more convenient than one depending upon the order of subjects, but upon full consideration, the balance appeared to be very much in favour of the latter, and wherever the object is to find a particular act, of which the year and chapter are previously known, it will be only necessary to refer to the chronological table.
To several of the Statutes notes are added of the cases which have been decided upon their construction. In some instances, the notes are applied immediately to the particular expressions upon the construction of which questions have taken place. In others they assume the character of a dissertation or a digest of the law, as applicable to the general subject.-In the composition of these notes as much attention has been paid to conciseness as appeared consistent with perspicuity.-In the examination of some questions, I have interposed my own views, and canvassed with freedom, but I hope without transgressing the limits of respect, the conclusions of judicial authority In others, I have ventured to suggest an alteration of the subsisting law, or to offer such opinions as have occurred to me, with regard to
matters of legislative enquiry, which have already enengaged the public attention, and conceiving that a disinclination to deviate from existing institutions, although proceeding from a laudable principle, has been carried to an inconvenient excess, I have, upon several occasions, adverted to that topic, and in so doing have not been solicitous to avoid a repetition of the same sentiments, or even the recurrence of similar expressions. In one of the numbers of the Appendix, referred to as a note to the act for the amendment of the law, I have entered more at large into the discussion of this very important and interesting subject, and endeavoured, to illustrate the principles which may be usefully applied in the adherence to, or deviation from the existing systems; to counteract the tendency of an excessive dread of innovation, in impeding the course of real and substantial improvement, and to call the attention of those invested with legislative authority to the direct and adequate examination of measures proposed for their adoption, as depending upon their intrinsic merits, divested of the influence of certain favourite expressions which have been too frequently admitted as a substitute for more substantial arguments.
The notes on the Satutes of Limitations, and Set off, and on penal obligations, have been already published in the appendix to a translation of Pothier's Treatise on Obligations. The article on illegal contracts in the appendix is also extracted from the same work, and is referred to in some of the notes to the Statutes concerning personal property and contracts, as connected with the subjects to which those Statutes immediately relate.-To the Statutes relating to bankrupts, I have subjoined a letter to Sir Samuel Romilly on the revision of the bankrupt law, published in 1810, with the addition of some practical notes.-A few others of the notes are taken from the sixth edition of Salkeld's Reports, published the year 1795.