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that it will contribute more to restore the vigour and simplicity of the law than any other single measure which parliament has ever sanctioned.
2. Another set of laws which have greatly helped to swell the Statute book' are those which grant bounties on exportation or importation, and those which prohibit exportation or importation for a limited or unlimited time.
It is foreign to our purpose to say any thing respecting the wisdom of the policy by which these enactments have successively been dictated. We only allege that their number has exceedingly incumbered the law, and that so many of them have been suspended, repealed, and re-enacted either in part or altogether, that those persons whose private interests lead them to consult them, cannot discover with reasonable certainty what the law was or is, with regard to almost any one commodity. The great law against importation is 3 Edward IV. c. 4. and is so excellent a specimen of the language used on subsequent similar occasions that we shall here insert it. Whereas in the said Parliament, by the artificers, men, and women, inhabiting and resident in the city of London, and other cities, towns, boroughs, and villages, within this realm and Wales, it hath been piteously shewed and complained, how that all they in general, and every of them be greatly impoverished, and much injured and prejudiced of their worldly increase, and daily living by the great multitude of divers chaffres and wares pertaining to their mysteries and occupations, being fully wrought and ready made to sale, as well by the hands of strangers being the King's enemies as other, brought into this realm and Wales from beyond the sea, as well by merchants, strangers, as denizens, and other persons, whereof the greatest part in substance is deceitful, and nothing worth in regard of any man's occupation or profit; by occasion whereof the said artificers cannot live by their mysteries and occupations, as they used to do in times past, but divers of them, as well householders as birelings, and other servants and apprentices in great number be at this day unoccupied, and do hardly live in great idleness, poverty, and ruin, whereby many inconveniences have grown before this time, and hereafter more be like to come (which God defend,) if due remedy be not in their behalf provided,' &c. And then the remedy provided is the complete prohibition of the importation of almost every wrought article of use or ornament at that time known. In furtherance of the principle which introduced this law, we have since advanced step by step, until there is hardly one considerable branch of trade or manufacture that is not depressed or elevated by a prohibition or a bounty. The woollen manufacture, linen, cotton, beef, verdegrease, gunpowder, leather, silk, sail-cloth and cordage, chip and straw manufactures, whale, cod, herring and pilchard fisheries, butter, cheese, lace, glass, sugar, and corn, have all with more or less constancy become the objects of parliamentary indulgence. There have been 194 acts passed, prohibiting importation and granting drawbacks and bounties on exportation ; 54 respecting the cotton and linen manufactures: 113 relating to the fisheries; 23 relating to sail-cloth and cordage; 29 relating to the corn-trade, and so on with respect to other objects in proportion to their real or conceived importance.
It would be useless to enter into any general or particular examination of these statutes, but a few of them may be a little more narrowly examined to shew how little knowledge, foresight, and consistency Parliament has evinced in the enactment of them. The preposterous encouragement given to the woollen manufacture by the act of Charles II., which obliged all persons whether they could afford it or not to bury in woollen, is an instance of this, which would have remained forgotten, had it not been for the conviction, which unexpectedly took place a few years ago and caused its repeal by 54 Geo. III. c. 108. The linen trade was assisted in every way during almost the whole of the last century; it then got out of favour, and the bounties on English linen were repealed by 52 Geo. III. c. 96. Those on Irish linen had the good fortune to be continued by c. 69. of the same year. A bounty on Irish cotton was granted by 45 Geo. III. c. 18. and taken away by 55 Geo. III. c. 181. By 24 Geo. III. Sess. 2. c. 21. the exportation of British skins of certain sorts is prohibited for the purpose of encouraging the hat manufactory. One does not at first sight see what possible reason could have been alleged for this act, as it is not probable such skins would have found a better market abroad than at home. The 28 Geo. III. c. 33. for consolidating the acts probibiting the exportation of live sheep, wool, and manufactures of wool slightly made up, appears to be equally unnecessary. Each of the articles prohibited would sell as well at home as abroad, and we are not aware such restriction should be laid on sheep and wool, either on account of their breed or quality. By 41 Geo. III. c. 99. there is a bounty given for bringing fish for sale to London, Westminster, and other places; and by 45 Geo. III. c. 64. it is enacted, that whereas 60001. had been paid in respect of the first mentioned act into the Treasury of Ireland, and the whole of it had not been expended, the Lord Lieutenant is permitted to expend it on the improvement of harbours ou the coast of that country—a much wiser application of the money certainly, but it shew's what absurd law's a rage for bounties may occasion. Several other instances of the same sort might here be enumerated, but they will find a more appropriate place under the head immediately following. It
is unnecessary to say any thing of drawbacks, as they stand precisely in the same situation with bounties, and both of them afford opportunities for fraud in obtaining undue allowances, of the exteut of which, and of the number, wealth, and general good repute of those who take advantage of them, we believe none but the officers of the Customs and Excise have any adequate conception.
The leading principle of these various enactments is, to prohibit the introduction of all foreign commodities if we can supply ourselves at home: if that is not practicable, then to limit the introduction to such articles as are unwrought, and impose a heavy duty on them on their entry, and as this unavoidably tends to make them dearer when manufactured, they have no chance of being sent abroad in that state, unless part of the price is paid to the manufacturer in the shape of a drawback or a bounty. Whether such a system is wise in the abstract, how far it may become necessary in one state in consequence of its adoption in contiguous ones, and to what extent it is possible to change it when once established, even though its injudiciousness is admitted, we believe to be some of the most difficult problems which occur in practical policy. The cursory examination of the Statute Book, which we have now been induced to make, has strengthened our suspicion, that such forcible means never answered their purpose, and that when the crafts and employments who have craved assistance from the legislature have received it, it has, like parish relief, proved baneful to themselves, and injurious to their less clamorous neighbours. Such acts may prolong the languishing existence of some manufactures; but they check the growth of others, and prevent capital and industry from running into those channels which time, accident, and fashion make it most profitable for them to take. Of the mischievous effect of such a system of legislation upon our law there can be no question. Whatever doubts there may be about its effects in other points of view, they are here sure and steady, and like the Revenue acts, of which they may justly be considered as a branch, one after another increases the perplexity of Statute Law, not in arithmetical but geometrical progression.
3. A third cause of the size of acts of parliament is the enactment of local, particular, or temporary laws, instead of general and permanent ones.
We are aware that there are a few acts, such as those for continuing certain duties, for punishing mutiny and desertion, for the payment of the arniy, and their quarters, and for the regulation of his Majesty's marine forces, while on shore, which continue, out of constitutional jealousy, to be passed from year to year. But even then it is not in itself an advantage to have these fundamental laws printed annually; and the circuinstance affords no justification for the repetition of other classes of acts, which has lately taken place without any such necessity.
With respect to local acts—there have altogether been 50 passed for the recovery of small debts in different parts of the country, and 43 of them within the present reign. One does not perceive why a general one might not be framed to adapt itself to all parts of the kingdom. The local acts for the management of the poor are still more numerous ; and though many of them are perhaps unavoidable, it shews the danger of suffering one questionable law to pass, as it may eventually bring a hundred others in its train. The 17 Geo. III. c. 11. is for the prevention of abuses in worsted manufactures in the counties of York, Lancaster, and Chester. The 24 Geo. III. Sess. 2. c. 3. extends the act to Suffolk, and the 31 Geo. III. c. 56. to Norfolk. According to this plan of legislation, if the worsted manufacture should hereafter prove prosperous, we may have this long and intricate act ten or twenty times repeated, which a little foresight would have saved. The 17 Geo. II. c. 8. relates to the packing of butter in New Malton, Yorkshire, a subsequent act to the packing of butter in the city of York, and we believe there is another, relating to the same matter for Ireland. It is not easy to discover reason for legislating on the packing of butter at all; but it is still more difficult to perceive why there should be two special acts on that subject for the city of York and town of New Malton. By the 9 Aune, c. 18. and five or six other acts, provisions were made of a local and partial nature to prevent injury to certain roads from excessive loads on waggons, which have at last met with the fate that ought always to attend so narrow a sort of legislation. After the usual process of explaining, amending, and making more effectual had been sufficiently repeated, these and a number of others relative to the highways of the kingdom were repealed, and a general act passed 37 Geo. III. c. 39 and 42. with which it would have been more creditable for Parliament to have begun than ended. In the same way almost every great river in the kingdom has a law of its own for the protection of salmon, with peculiar provisions for carrying it into execution, though there seems no insuperable obstacle to a general act, which should give to persons interested one effectual remedy instead of several ineffectual ones, and extend to all parts of the empire.
Other enactments, instead of being general, are particular. The 31 Geo. II. c. 40. prohibits brokers in hay and live cattle from buying and selling on their own account, which the 33 Geo. II. c. 27. extends to dealers in fish. Could any thing but transient clamour bave subjected such brokers to greater restrictions than brokers in horses, corn, or any other commodity? The 9 Anne, C. 28., 12 Geo. I.c. 34. and 35., 22 Geo. II. c. 27., 6 Geo. III c. 28., 14 Geo. III. c. 44., and 36 Geo. III. c. 11., have been enacted in succession to prevent combinations among coal owners, woollen manufacturers, brickmakers, journeymen dyers, silk manufacturers, certain specified class of workmen, and manufacturers of paper. Surely it would not have been too provident to suppose, that combination existing among one set of men and in a manufacturing country might afterwards extend to others, and therefore that a general law should have been prepared applicable to all cases. The expediency of this was at last perceived, when much labour had been thrown away, and the 39 Geo. III. c. 81. was passed, and again amended by 39 and 40 Geo. III. c. 106. the provisions of which last act by 49 Geo. III. c. 86. communicate the same law to Ireland. But in the improved state in which we now find it, why is the prohibition against combination confined to workmen? Laws should be equal as well as wise, and a combination among masters to keep down wages is an offence just as criminal as a combination
c. 28., among
workmen to raise them. That such combinations are not likely to happen is perfectly true, but no justitication of the omission, because an act is now obviously imperfect, which may require hereafter to be amended by another, which the addition of a dozen words would have made perfect in the first instance. To the same class may be added 82 acts relating to insolvent debtors, 106 general acts relative to the poor, 35 in the latter part of the reign of George Il. and beginning of that of George III. respecting the distemper of so much historical notoriety, which raged among the horned cattle; 50 relating to game, 17 to quarantine, 54 to linen and cotton manufactures, 113 to the fisheries, 46 during the present reign to the election of members of Parliament, 23 for enlarging the time for enrolling the wills of Roman Catholics, and the security of Protestant purchasers, and 66 for indemnifying persons for not qualifying themselves for offices and employments. If the subjects to which these classes of acts refer had been considered at the outset by the two Houses of Parliament in that enlightened and comprehensive manner, which a suitable regard to their own duty and dignity demanded, it could not have been requisite to amend, repeal, and re-enact them so frequently. The two heads last mentioned especially deserve attention. When any act is regularly renewed, it generally proves one of two things, either that the act itself is unwise, or that those ought to be punished to whom the execution of it is committed and by whom it has been neglected. The enrolment of the wills of Roman Catholics is now entirely superseded, after having needlessly incumbered the Statute book for half a century. The acts for indemnifying persons for not qualifying themselves for