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Coko's Iusti


tion, which he said would be made with posterity, whether he or Coke was the greater lawyer. The writings of Lord Bacon are distinguished for the perspicuity and simplicity with which every subject is treated.

Lord Coke's Institutes have had a most extensive and permanent influence on the common law of England. The first part is a commentary upon Littleton's Tenures; and notwithstanding the magnitude of the work, it has reached seventeen editions. Many of the doctrines which his writings explain and illustrate, have become obsolete, or have been swept away by the current of events. The influence of two centuries must inevitably work a great revolution in the laws and usages, as well as in the manners and taste, of a nation. Perhaps every thing useful in the institutes of Coke may be found more methodically arranged, and more interestingly taught, in the modern compilations and digests; yet his authority on all subjects connected with the ancient law, is too great and too venerable to be neglected. The writings of Coke, as Butler has observed, stand between and connect the ancient and the modern law-the old and the new jurisprudence. He explains the ancient system of law as it stood in his day, and he points out the leading circumstances of the innovation which was begun. We have in his works the beginning of the disuse of real actions the tendency of the nation to abolish the military tenures; the rise of a system of equity jurisdiction; and the outlines of every point of modern law.


The second part of the Institutes of Coke is a commentary upon the ancient statutes, beginning with magna charta, and proceeding down to the reign of Henry VIII.; and his commentaries upon the ancient statutes consisted, as he himself declared, of the authentic resolutions of the courts of justice, and were not like the glosses of the civilians upon the text of the civil law, which contain so many diversities

a Pref. to Co. Litt.

of opinion as to increase rather than to resolve doubts and
uncertainties. His commentary upon magna charta, and par-
ticularly on the celebrated 29th chapter, is deeply interesting
to the lawyers of the present age, as well from the value
and dignity of the text, as the spirit of justice and of civil
In this re-
liberty which pervades and animates the work.
spect Lord Coke eclipses his contemporary and great rival,
Lord Bacon, who was as inferior to Coke in a just sense and
manly vindication of the freedom and privileges of the sub-
ject, as he was superior in general science and philoso-
phy. Lord Coke, in a very advanced age, took a principal
share in proposing and framing the celebrated Petition of
Right, containing a parliamentary sanction of those consti-
tutional limitations upon the royal prerogative, which were
deemed essential to the liberties of the nation.

The third and fourth parts of the institutes treat of high treason, and the other pleas of the crown, and the history and antiquities of the English courts. The harshness and severity of the ancient criminal code of England are not suited to the taste and moral sense of the present age; and those parts of the institutes are of very inconsiderable value and use, except it be to enlighten the researches of the legal antiquary. In this respect, Coke's Pleas of the Crown are inferior to the work under that title by Staunforde, who wrote in the age of Philip and Mary, and was the earliest writer who treated didactically on that subject. Staunforde wrote in law French; but Lord Coke, more wisely and benevolently, wrote in English, because, he said, the matter of which he treated concerned all the subjects of the realm.

Before we quit the period of the old law, we must not omit to notice the grand abridgments of Statham, Fitzherbert, and Brooke. Statham was a baron of the Exchequer Statham. in the time of Edward IV. His abridgment of the law was a digest of most titles of the law, and comprising under each head adjudged cases from the Year Books, given in a concise manner. The cases were strung together without regard to connexion of matter. It is doubtful whether it was


[Part III printed before or after Fitzherbert's work, but the latter Fitzherber. entirely superseded it. Fitzherbert was published in the reign of Henry VIII., and came out in 1514, and was a work for that period of singular learning and utility. Brooke was published in 1573, and in a great degree superseded the others. These two last abridgments contain the substance of the Year Books regularly digested; and by the form and order which they gave to the rude materials before them, and the great facility which they afforded to the acquisition of knowledge, they must have contributed very greatly and rapidly to the improvement of legal science. Even those exceedingly laborious abridgments were in their turn to be superseded by the abridgments of Rolle, and his successors. Dr. Cowell, who was contemporary with Coke, published in Latin an Institute of the Laws of England, after the manner of Justinian's Institutes. His work was founded upon the old feudal tenures, such as the law of wards and liveries, tenures in capite, and knight service. While the writings of Lord Coke have descended with fame and honour to posterity, it was the fate of the learned labours of Dr. Cowell, to pass unheeded and unknown, into irreclaimable oblivion. And, with respect to all the preceding periods, Reeve. Reeves' History of the English Law contains the best account that we have of the progress of the law, from the time of the Saxons to the reign of Elizabeth. It covers the whole ground of the law included in the old abridgments, and it is a work deserving of the highest commen


a Dr. Cowell published a Law Dictionary, or the Interpreter of Words and Terms used either in the Common or Statute Law, and in the Tenures. Cowell's Interpreter is frequently cited by the English antiquarians, and Mr. Seldon makes much use of it in his notes to Fortescue. It is one of the authorities used by Jacob in compiling his Law Dictionary; but the first edition under James I. met with the singular fate of being suppressed by a proclamation of the king, at the instance of the House of Commons, for containing the heretical and monstrous doctrine, that the king was an absolute monarch, and above the law, which he might alter or suspend at his pleasure.

dation. I am at a loss which most to admire, the full and accurate learning which it contains, or the neat, perspicuous, and sometimes elegant style, in which that learning is conveyed.


The treatise of Sir Henry Finch, being a discourse in Finch's Disfour books on the maxims and positive grounds of the law, was first published in French, in 1613, and we have the authority of Sir William Blackstone for saying, that his method was greatly superior to all the treatises that were then extant. His text was weighty, concise, and nervous, and his illustrations apposite, clear, and authentic. But the abolition of the feudal tenures, and the disuse of real actions, have rendered half of his work obsolete.


Shepherd's Touchstone of Common Assurances was the Shepherd's production of Mr. Justice Dodderidge, in the reign of James I. It is a work of great value and authority, touching the common law modes of conveyance, and those derived from the statute of uses. It treats also copiously of the law of uses and devises; but the great defect of the book is the want of that lucid order and perspicuous method which are essential to the cheerful perusal and ready perception of the merits of such a work. The second volume of Collectanea Juridica has an analysis of the theory and practice of conveyancing, which is only a compendious abridgment of the Touchstone; and there is a very improved edition of it by Preston, who has favoured the profession with several excellent tracts on the law of real property.

Rolle's Abridgment of the Law was published soon after Rolle's Athe restoration, with an interesting preface by Sir Matthew bridgment. Hale. It brings down the law to the end of the reign of Charles I., and though it be an excellent work, and, in point of method, succinctness, and legal precision, a model of a good abridgment, Sir Matthew Hale considered it an unequal monument of the fame of Rolle, and that it fell short of what might have been expected from his abilities and great merit. It is also deemed, by Mr. Hargrave, a great defect in Viner's very extensive abridgment, that he should



have attempted to engraft it on such a narrow foundation as that of Rolle's work. Rolle was chief justice of England under the protectorate of Cromwell, and under the preceding commonwealth; but as his abridgment was printed in the reign of Charles II., he has no other title annexed to his name than that of Serjeant Rolle, and his republican dignity was not recognised.

Since the period of the English revolution, the new digests have superseded the use of the former ones; and Bacon, Viner, Comyns, and Cruise, contain such a vast accession of modern law learning, that their predecessors have fallen into oblivion. Viner's Abridgment, with all its defects and inaccuracies, is a convenient part of every lawyer's library. We obtain by it an easy and prompt access to the learning of the Year Books, and the old abridgments, and the work is enriched with many reports of adjudged cases, not to be found elsewhere; but, after all that can be said in its favour, it is an enormous mass of crude undigested matter, and not worth Comyns' Di the labour of the compilation. The digest of Lord Chief Baron Comyns is a production of vastly higher order and reputation, and it is the best digest extant upon the entire body of the English law. Lord Kenyon held his opinion alone to be of great authority, for he was considered by his contemporaries as the most able lawyer in Westminster Hall.' The title Pleader has often been considered as the most elaborate and useful head of the work, but the whole is distinguished for the variety of the matter, its lucid order, the precision and brevity of the expression, and the accuracy Bacon's A and felicity of the execution. Bacon's Abridgment was composed chiefly from materials left by Lord Chief Baron Gilbert. It has more of the character of an elementary work than Comyns' Digest. The first edition appeared in 1736, and was much admired, and the abridgment has maintained its great influence down to the present time, as being


a 3 Term, 64. 631.

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