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TO THE SECOND EDITION.
In preparing a new edition of these Commentaries for the press, I have not been inattentive to the many alterations which have taken place in our American law, since the first volume appeared in 1826. Within that period, the laws of the government of the United States have undergone some important amendments, and the constitution itself has received additional explanations by the courts of justice. So, also, the statutes and judicial decisions in the several states, have introduced essential changes in the local jurisprudence of the country. This has been particularly the case in New-York, by means of the Revised Statutes, which were published, and went into operation, since the date of the third of these volumes. Their influence on the law concerning real property I had an opportunity to consider in the fourth volume; but they have also made material alterations on other subjects, which I had already discussed; and especially in relation to the writ of habeas corpus-marriage and divorce-absconding debtors-insolvent laws-the administration of the estates of deceased persons -the powers of surrogates-the power of facVOL. I.
tors-the question of fraud in sales-damages on protested bills, and the law of distress. To have suffered a new edition of the Commentaries to appear under my own supervision, without noticing the changes and improvements in the law which had been made since their first publication, would have impaired the credit of the work. I have accordingly availed myself of these alterations, and of all the means of information within my power, by a perusal of the latest Reports and Treatises, from abroad, and from every part of the United States. It has been my object to ascertain and state truly and accurately the law of the land, in the extent to which I profess to examine it, as it existed at the commencement of the present year.
I take this occasion to return my grateful acknowledgments to the American bar, to many distinguished judicial and literary characters, and to the public at large, for the kind notice and liberal patronage with which these volumes have been honoured; and I have endeavoured, in the present edition, to lessen their imperfections, and to increase their accuracy, by a diligent and careful revisal of every part of them, and by making such corrections and improvements as have been suggested to me by others, or dictated by my own reading and reflections. In some instances the work has been enlarged by the addition of distinct heads of discussion, such as the lex loci as to contracts-the interpretation of contracts, and the law of insurance of lives, and against fire. The general Index, at the end
of the fourth volume, has also been much enlarged; and as the first volume, or the most material part of it, is academically taught in some of our public institutions, I have added a separate Index to that volume, and marginal references of the same nature, to facilitate the study of it; and that volume will continue to be separately sold. My thanks are due to one of the military officers of the academy at WEST-POINT, for the obliging offer of his own private, but minute and judicious Index to the first part of that volume, and for the assistance which it has afforded me; and I am also indebted to the President of GENEVA COLLEGE, for some important suggestions which have been adopted.
It has been a practice with many law writers, to alter and enlarge their works in subsequent editions, so as to meet the variations and different aspects constantly taking place in the science of law, by reason of legislative enactments, and a course of judicial decisions. They have also endeavoured to improve them by such illustrations as new cases, and the further investigation and final settlement of principles, afforded. This has been the case, in a striking manner, with Mr. Bell's Commentaries on the Laws of Scotland; the Law of Marine Insurance, by Mr. Justice Parke; the Essay on Contingent Remainders, by Mr. Fearne ; and the Treatise of Powers, by Sir Edward B Sugden. The manner in which these volumes were originally compiled, and successively published; and the character, variety, and immense details, of the jurisprudence of the several states,
and the difficulty of understanding, and stating precisely, their conflicting provisions, would seem to render a free imitation of such high examples the more pardonable, if not the more essential. But I do not purpose to interfere hereafter with the work as it is now presented to the public, even if I should live to see other editions. The volumes are intended to remain as evidence of my view of the law as it now exists; and I shall leave to others the task of following it in its future vicissitudes, if such vicissitudes are to be its destiny. I am not, however, without a humble hope, that the spirit of innovation may hereafter be somewhat abated, and a character for greater stability gradually impressed upon our American jurisprudence.
NEW-YORK, APRIL 23d, 1832.